‘The Rundown’: This week’s winners and losers in Utah politics

Gov. Cox doesn’t follow his own advice on cable news

"The Rundown" logo

Good morning Utah, and TGIF!

Thanks for reading “The Rundown”.

Got a news tip? Some interesting political gossip? Just want to chat about politics? Send me an email or find me on Twitter @SchottHappens.

Get this newsletter delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. Sign up for free here.

Stock up/stock down

It’s Friday, which means time to look back on the week in Utah politics to determine who sees their political fortunes on the rise and who is dropping like Bitcoin. The less said about our crypto portfolios, the better.

📈 Stock up: Legislative Republicans

While there may be some hand-wringing by some about the resolutions on critical race theory and making Utah a “2nd Amendment sanctuary,” those issues are political wins for the GOP.

Most Utahns don’t really know what critical race theory is (Sen. Lincoln Fillmore admitted as much during floor debate). Still, there’s been enough demagoguing on the issue that it’s likely most voters are happy legislators are doing something about it (even though the resolution doesn’t do anything at all).

Plus, gun rights are always a winner in Utah.

📈 Stock up: House Democrats

Tired of being frozen out of the legislative process, House Democrats decided to take a stand and walk out before those resolutions came for a vote. It’s been a very long time since we’ve seen Democrats on the Hill do something that surprised the GOP majority, and it’s safe to say Republicans were not expecting it.

The maneuver didn’t impact the ultimate result since it was predetermined the resolutions would pass. But, Democrats effectively hijacked the discussion as reporters scurried out of the House gallery for a hastily called press conference, ignoring the action on the floor. You have to wonder how many Republicans had to abandon their passionate speeches on the subject because there was no audience.

Was it grandstanding? Of course, but it was very effective.

📉 Stock down: Gov. Spencer Cox

Gov. Cox stood up to Republicans, who pressured him to add the critical race theory and 2nd Amendment sanctuary issues to the agenda for this week’s special session. Undeterred, legislative Republicans went around him.

In theory, Utah has three co-equal branches of government. But the legislature has always seen itself as the most important and powerful of those equals.

Just 4 1/2 months into his tenure, Cox tried to show he wouldn’t be a pushover, but lawmakers showed they wouldn’t back down either.

If this dynamic continues, Cox will certainly win a few of these battles. But he’ll lose far more.

Do as I say...

On Thursday, during his monthly KUED press conference, Gov. Spencer Cox discussed the resolutions passed by the Utah House and Senate the day before.

“I’ve said this over and over again. I’ve been saying it for many, many years is that we would all be better off if people would stop watching cable news. Whether it’s CNN or Fox News or MSNBC, pick whichever one you’re addicted to. I’m eight years sober, and it’s one of the best things that I’ve ever done.”

Cox may have stopped watching cable news, but that hasn’t stopped him from being a frequent guest.

A cursory analysis from “The Rundown” found Cox made at least three appearances on cable news in the last month alone (CNN and Fox Business) and added another guest slot on PBS Newshour. In total, Cox has made at least 7 national television appearances since taking office in January.

In television, ratings are king. I’m guessing telling people not to watch is bad for business.

Here’s what you need to know for Friday

Local news

  • Gov. Spencer Cox says he supports the effort by lawmakers to tackle critical race theory because it aligns with his goal to take a careful look at the issue [Tribune].

  • Sen. Mitt Romney says the U.S. should boost the amount of COVID-19 vaccine it sends to other countries to help stop the spread of the virus [Tribune],

National news

  • Israel and Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire after a conflict that left hundreds of dead [CNN].

  • The number of new jobless claims in the U.S. fell to a new pandemic low just as 22 states, including Utah, cut off pandemic-related expanded unemployment benefits [AP].

  • The number of Americans getting vaccinated against COVID-19 dropped by nearly half in the last month [CNN].

  • Senate Republicans are expected to filibuster the bill establishing an independent commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol [Politico].

  • Biden administration officials are growing dismayed after Senate Republicans did not move much off of their original infrastructure package proposal [AP].

  • The Biden administration wants to collect an extra $700 billion in tax revenue from wealthy Americans who may not be paying their fair share [CBS News].

  • The Trump Justice Department secretly obtained the phone and email records of CNN reporter Barbara Starr, who covers the Pentagon [CNN].

  • The Arizona Secretary of State warned Maricopa County should replace millions of dollars worth of voting equipment because the current equipment is no longer secure after the machines were turned over to a private contractor for a GOP-backed audit of the 2020 election [WaPo].

  • CNN personality Chris Cuomo advised his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on how to respond to allegations of sexual harassment made against him [WaPo].

  • Schools are struggling to get students back in the classroom after months of remote learning [WSJ].

  • Former President Trump hit the Secret Service with a $40,000 bill after charging his protective detail nearly $400 every day for lodging at his Mar-a-Lago hotel where he is living after leaving the White House [WaPo].

“Utah Politics” podcast

This week I chat with Rex Facer, the chair of Utah’s independent redistricting commission. I asked him whether he and his fellow commissioners feel pressure not to draw maps that favor one party over the other.

“We don’t want to agree beforehand to draw maps that are going to force competitiveness where competitiveness wouldn’t naturally occur,” Facer said. “Competitive elections are a good thing because it forces us to have more thoughtful conversations on ideas. But we have to realize that not every place is going to end up with competitive elections.”

Listen for free here.

Friday’s Utah news roundup


  • Fire danger is high as high winds head for Utah [Tribune].

  • She called Utah police to help her suicidal husband. They shot and killed him [Tribune].

  • UHP seeing more aggressive drivers as summer draws near [Fox 13].

  • How Spencer Cox, an ‘angsty’ farm boy, grew up to become the governor of Utah [Deseret News].

  • How state officials hope to find solutions to ‘pandemic’ of child care shortage [Deseret News].

  • Utah business owners ‘scrambling’ to pay state tax bill on PPP loans [KUTV].

  • Report: More women in Utah leaving health care industry [Spectrum].

  • Grantsville City plans to hire city manager [Transcript Bulletin].

  • Weber State becomes the first in Utah to offer queer studies program [Standard-Examiner].


  • Mitchell calls move to ban critical race theory in Utah schools ‘unfortunate’ [Fox 13].

  • Utah Rep. Rosemary Lesser laments ‘divisive, rushed’ action on race, gun issues [Standard-Examiner].


  • Lee, Romney want Congress to decide Utah monuments, not president [KUTV].


  • Four more Utahns die of COVID-19 [Tribune].


  • Utah-based Breeze Airways will take to the skies next week [Tribune].

Local government

  • Survey on the future of Seven Canyons Fountain in Liberty Park closes Friday evening [Tribune].

  • Ogden looking to make progress on several high-profile redevelopment efforts over next year [Standard-Examiner].

  • Park City Board of Education has scrapped the live public comment portion of its meetings [Park Record].

  • Provo celebrates traditional topping-off party for new airport terminal [Daily Herald].

  • Moab housing crises create a hiring crisis [Moab Times-Independent].

  • New charging station for Zion’s electric shuttles done, kickoff in Kanab [Spectrum].

On the opinion pages

  • Stuart C. Reid: Republicans snub Hispanic voters at their own political peril [Tribune].

  • Andrew Stoddard: Pandemic has hurt efforts to help those wrongfully imprisoned [Tribune].

  • Eric Ruiz Bybee: Right-wing attacks on critical race theory threaten equity in schools [Tribune].

  • Clayton Parr: Hard-core conservatives take control of Republican Party [Tribune].

  • Susan Madsen: Childcare controversy falls into the either/or trap [Tribune].

🎂 You say it’s your birthday?!!

Birthday wishes this weekend to Joe Pyrah of Sego Strategies, Michael Jolley, who served as director of communications for former gubernatorial candidate Jeff Burningham who celebrate on Saturday and Carl Downing, a co-founder of the Buckshot Caucus who marks another year on Sunday.

Got a birthday you’d like us to recognize in this space? Send us an email.