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Paul Rolly: Speaker Lockhart changing political alliances

By PAUL ROLLY

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Aug 22 2014 04:12 pm • Last Updated Aug 29 2014 09:35 am

They say politics makes for strange bedfellows. It also can generate coalitions from former enemy camps, depending on the needs of the players involved.

Just two years ago, House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, recruited a fellow Utah County legislator, Rep. Francis Gibson, to bump off one of the members of her leadership team, Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, from his position as House Majority Whip.

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Lockhart campaigned hard for Gibson, R-Mapleton, who she believed would be a more loyal member of her team than Hughes, a close political ally of former House Speaker Dave Clark, who Lockhart defeated in 2010 in a bitter struggle to become the chamber’s top leader.

Hughes survived the onslaught led by the most powerful person in the Legislature, defeating Gibson by one vote, still knowing he was looked on with suspicion by his duly-elected leader.

But that was then.

Lockhart, who is retiring from the Legislature at the end of this year, had given every indication she planned to challenge Gov. Gary Herbert for the Republican nomination in 2016.

She began the 2014 session with salvos aimed directly at the incumbent governor in her opening-day remarks to the House. She went so far as to call Herbert an "inaction figure" and laid out several policy positions in which she and Herbert differed.

But sources close to Lockhart say she recently has had a reality check and realizes how difficult it would be to oust a popular incumbent governor in his own party’s convention.

So she has applied to be the next state schools superintendent, a position that just became available with the early retirement of Superintendent Martell Menlove.

And Hughes, a one-time political rival, could be a key player in helping her get that job.


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Hughes, the founder of the Utah House’s Conservative Caucus, has seen his political alignments change drastically in the past few months.

He had been an ally of Clark, along with House Majority Brad Dee, and that put them at odds with Lockhart.

With Lockhart retiring from the House, Dee has made it known he will run for the speaker’s job. And Hughes, who considered himself a compadre of Dee, R-Ogden, planned to follow his friend up the ladder and run for the majority leader’s slot.

But Don Ipson, the assistant majority whip from St. George, has decided to skip a rung on that ladder and run for majority leader instead of the whip position being vacated by Hughes.

Dee’s House district includes portions of Weber and Davis counties and on the political scale, Republican legislators in those areas are aligned with the conservative House members in Washington County.

That makes Dee and Ipson natural allies, and Hughes the odd man out.

So Hughes is running for speaker against his old ally Dee. Lockhart, reportedly, is on his side.

Hughes also is close to David Crandall, the chairman of the State School Board and, like Hughes, an avid promoter of charter schools. Crandall and Hughes both serve on the board of the Summit Academy charter school in Draper.

Lockhart may need all the help she can get on the state board. She rankled board members this past legislative session when she pushed for a bill that would have shifted the way the chairman of the state school board is selected. Instead of the chairman being elected by the board, the power would shift to the governor.

Because of backlash from board members, the bill was never filed.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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