As Utah House Democrats elected their new leadership team Tuesday night, it didn’t appear that a recent assault allegation lodged against the caucus’s top leader hurt — or even slowed — his bid to return to the post.
Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, was re-elected minority leader despite recent controversy over state Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, filing a criminal complaint against him. Thatcher contends King pushed him in a hallway in the Senate Building at the Utah Capitol last month.
King said he regretted the confrontation but said it was nothing close to being an assault, and he was confident he would not be prosecuted.
“I am grateful and honored that our caucus continues to have confidence in my leadership,” King said in a statement after his re-election. “We have a very cohesive team, and we will continue speaking up for hardworking Utahns.
“I look forward to working closely with both my Democratic and Republican colleagues on tackling the challenges facing Utah and ensuring that all Utahns have opportunities to succeed and thrive.”
Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, was selected as minority whip; Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, was returned as assistant minority whip; and Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Taylorsville, was named caucus leader.
Moss and Rep. Susan Duckworth, D-Magna, told The Salt Lake Tribune that King came to the caucus with information about the incident between him and Thatcher long before it became public knowledge. Both said that transparency affected their decision to throw their support behind him again.
“He’s embarrassed,” Moss said. “He’s contrite about it, he told the caucus about it, he’s embarrassed that it happened. In a way I think it’s more embarrassing to Senator Thatcher than it is to Representative King.”
King, who has served in the Legislature since 2009, said that far from losing him support, the incident made people in the caucus more supportive.
“The members of the caucus all know, at least the ones that have been there for this last term — and sometimes, of course, they’ve been around for much longer than that — they know Dan and they know me, and I think they’re going to make their own minds up about who is more credible in this,” he said.
The House Democrats are the last to finalize their leadership for next year. Earlier this month, Democrats in the Senate deposed their longtime leader, Gene Davis, who will be the only returning Democratic senator without a leadership post. Sen. Karen Mayne, of West Valley City, will be the new minority leader in that chamber.
The supermajority Republicans in the House and Senate already picked their leaders — with no apparent drama — earlier this month. In fact, Utah Rep. Brad Wilson and Sen. Stuart Adams earned top positions in their respective legislative chambers without a single challenger.