Former state Rep. Carl Duckworth — the husband of current Rep. Sue Duckworth, D-Magna — died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.
He served 10 years in the House from 1999 to 2008, and retired after being diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a blood cancer. His wife then ran for his seat and won — where she has now also served for 10 years.
Utah House Democrats said in a Tweet on Tuesday that Carl Duckworth “was always kind and friendly to all, and an advocate for hardworking Utahns.”
Duckworth was a union leader at Kennecott Copper, where he worked for 34 years as a heavy equipment operator. Rep. Mark Wheatley, D-Murray, said he was “a strong advocate for unions. He worked to ensure people received equal pay for equal work. He wanted people to have a livable wage with health benefits.”
House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said Tuesday that Duckworth “was a committed public servant who quietly went about the people’s business without pause and never for praise.”
Earlier this year, Hughes invited Duckworth to sit by him on the stand as he was still battling cancer. “In that moment, there wasn’t a dry eye,” the speaker said.
Utah Democratic Party Executive Director Alex Cragun said Tuesday, “Carl was our rock, and he was Rep. Sue Duckworth’s rock.... Carl served his constituents with a quiet dignity that earned him the respect of his political colleagues.”
Cragun added that Duckworth “didn’t strong-arm, he didn’t backroom deal, he simply showed up to represent Magna, do his job, and left Utah better because of it.”
Rhoda Struhs, who was the administrative assistant for the House Democrats while Duckworth served, said, “Carl was a quiet champion. He very seldom spoke up, but instead chose to work behind the scenes. He wasn’t one to pontificate. But when he did, the whole floor would get quiet.
“Carl would stand and speak very articulately and calmly about a bill, and everyone would stop and listen. That almost never happens at the Legislature, and I thought it was so powerful,” she said.
Rep. Carol Moss, D-Holladay, said, “Carl was always kind and friendly, and never appeared to be in a bad mood. He had a quiet demeanor, but as a legislator he was always engaged and followed everything closely. If ever I had a question during a floor debate I could always ask Carl and he knew the answer.”
In a 2006 story, then-House Democratic leader Ralph Becker — who later became mayor of Salt Lake City — said Duckworth effectively represented Magna even though he did not like the spotlight and spoke little publicly.
“He is a quiet, effective voice for his constituents,” Becker said. “In part because when he speaks, his voice carries a lot of weight.”
The 2006 story noted that Duckworth preferred to study and vote on bills, rather than introduce his own, saying, “there are way too many laws already.”
Also, Duckworth and two other legislators — former Reps. Neal Hendrickson and Jim Gowans — formed what they called their own “cheapskate caucus,” regularly skipping Democratic caucus meetings because the lunch cost $9.50. They preferred to spend about $5 by eating together at the Capitol cafeteria.