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

Your Friday morning Utah political cheat sheet

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Good morning Utah and TGIF!

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This week’s political winners and losers

⬆️ Winner: Sen. Mitt Romney. News broke Thursday that a bipartisan group of 10 Senators (5 Republicans and 5 Democrats) had reached a tentative agreement on an infrastructure funding package. The deal reportedly includes $597 billion in new spending. If it can muster enough support to survive, it gives Romney leverage to craft more deals. Maybe bipartisanship isn’t dead in Washington.

⬆️ Winner: Ally Isom. So far, the Club for Growth has sent voters at least two mailers attacking her because she’s considering challenging Sen. Mike Lee next year. She’s not even a declared candidate yet. They may be trying to scare her away from running, but they’re also raising her public profile. It’s a good bet more Utahns know her name this week than did last week. Remember, any publicity is good publicity.

⬇️ Loser: Virtual COVID-19 briefings. It’s odd that Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson still hold virtual weekly press conferences instead of facing the press in person. However, most of the COVID-related restrictions have been lifted around the state. A spokesperson for Cox’s office said a return to in-person briefings is “on the table,” but the virtual format allows news outlets outside Salt Lake City to participate. But, the virtual format also gives them more control, from who gets to ask a question (with few follow-ups) to the length of the briefing.

Here’s what you need to know for Friday

BLOCKBUSTER! The Trump Department of Justice seized records from Apple for at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee to investigate who was behind leaks to the press. The data was from aides and family members for Chairman Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, including one minor. [NYT]

Local news

  • Sen. Mitt Romney is part of a bipartisan group of senators who say they’ve reached a deal to fund infrastructure. The five-year deal is worth nearly $1 trillion. [WaPo]

  • Utahns are having fewer kids, mostly because of financial pressures. That could have big implications for the future. [Tribune]

  • Utah’s housing crisis is pushing many renters to the financial brink. Four Utahns talk about their financial struggles as they pay around half of their monthly income on rent. [Tribune]

  • Utah County doesn’t have a homeless shelter. Advocates say there’s no political will to build one in Utah’s second-largest county. [Tribune]

  • The Utah Jazz rallied from a 4th quarter deficit to edge the Los Angeles Clippers 117-111. They lead the 2nd round playoff series 2 games to none. [Tribune]

National news

  • Former Vice President Al Gore called on President Joe Biden not to soften his agenda to fight climate change as he pushes for an infrastructure deal. [WaPo]

  • Federal prosecutors charged six California men who are part of a radical right-wing militia group with conspiracy charges connected to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. [NYT]

  • The extreme drought in the West is getting worse, with more than a quarter of the region under “exceptional” dry conditions. [CNN]

  • Northern California is under a water shortage emergency due to severe drought. [CNN]

  • Former President Donald Trump issued a statement telling President Joe Biden to give his “warmest regards” to Russian President Vladimir Putin when they meet next week. Trump also reminisced on his “great” Helsinki summit, where he sided with Putin over American intelligence agencies on election hacking. [Forbes]

  • Consumer prices jumped 5% last month, the largest inflationary increase in 13 years. Price increases were driven by airfare, food, household furnishings, and used vehicles. [WSJ]

  • The U.S. budget deficit for fiscal 2021 is more than $2 trillion, but the monthly budget shortfall was below $132 billion, which was the lowest monthly deficit of the year. [CNBC]

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says his state will continue to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico. [NYT]

  • Democrats are trying to defuse a controversy surrounding comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar comparing actions by the U.S. to war crimes committed by Hamas and the Taliban. [Politico]

  • An Oregon Republican lawmaker was expelled from the House of Representatives after a video emerged of him plotting a raid on the State Capitol building with far-right extremists. [Oregon Public Broadcasting]

“Utah Politics” podcast

This week I’m joined by longtime political pundit Chris Matthews. The former host of “Hardball” on MSNBC joins me to discuss how American politics have changed after President Donald Trump and why he says Republicans booing Mitt Romney was shameful.

He also talks about his time as a staffer for former Sen. Frank Moss, the last Democrat in the Senate from Utah.

Give it a listen here.

Friday’s Utah news roundup


  • Another major change coming to LDS Temple Square: Gardens will replace North Visitors’ Center. [Tribune]

  • Movie buff unchains himself from Utah Theater, but vows to keep fighting to save it. [Tribune]

  • Do you spend more than half your income on rent? Here are resources that can help. [Tribune]

  • ‘Human Libraries’ are bigger than ever. Could they help Utah? [Tribune]

  • What Rep. Burgess Owens says about white supremacists and crime in Black communities. [DNews]

  • New partnership for Utah Inland Port Authority sparks old debate. [FOX13]


  • 1.271 million Utahns are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. [Tribune]

  • Utah adults have been eligible for the coronavirus vaccine for months. So who is still dying? [Tribune]

  • Lt. Gov. Henderson asks businesses to incentivize vaccines for workers. [DNews]

  • How much Utah spent in federal COVID-19 money in 2020 — and why the state auditor is concerned. [DNews]

  • Salt Lake County hosts unique vaccine clinics, says we’re nowhere near herd immunity. [FOX13]

  • Davis County to stop vaccinating at Legacy Events Center, moving to three senior centers. [Standard Examiner]

Local Government

  • SLCO Council limits emergency no-bid contracts after one went to spouse of mayor’s staffer. [KUTV]

  • Utah Supreme Court revives lawsuit of woman who claims church made her listen to own rape. [FOX13]

  • Pending ordinance would limit the ways Ogden’s mayor and council can get pay raises. [Standard Examiner]

  • Blaming ‘miscommunication,’ Utah Dem. county chairs retract voter suppression claims. [Daily Herald]

  • Utah County commissioners clash over Recorder’s Office staffing proposal. [Daily Herald]

  • Park City Council candidate wants Basin dwellers to have voting rights inside municipality. [Park Record]


  • Utah County Commission approves irrigation water conservation measures. [Daily Herald]

  • Water waster website flooded with complaints. [FOX13]

  • Park City cancels bidding for construction of contaminated soils facility. [Park Record]

  • UTA’s S-Line now runs on 100% renewable energy after investments. [KSL]


  • Is Utah university’s ‘Dixie’ name going the way of The Chicks? [DNews]

  • Utah public school with ties to polygamous sect placed on ‘warning’ status. [FOX13]


  • Wyoming medical cannabis supporters launch ballot initiatives. [FOX13]

On the Opinion Pages

  • Kirk Robinson: We should learn to live peacefully with wild animals in Utah. [Tribune]

  • Hunter A. Thomas: Conservative climate solutions will help preserve border security. [Tribune]

  • Ty Markham and Marc Coles-Ritchie: Utah representatives should support methane regulation. [Tribune]

🎂 You say it’s your birthday?!!

Happy birthday to former state Rep. Merlynn Newbold, Chris Bleak with the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools and retired Sen. Orrin Hatch’s former Finance Committee director Chris Campbell.

Taylorsville City engineer John Taylor, former Senate President Mike Waddoups and the University of Utah’s Elisabeth Woodfield celebrate Saturday.

Former state Rep. Jennifer Seelig and Trish Knight, former chief of staff to former Sen. Orrin Hatch celebrate on Sunday.

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

— Tribune reporter Connor Sanders contributed to this report.