LaVarr Webb and Frank Pignanelli: 3rd District race will add heat to summer politics

Utahns are accustomed to sleepy odd-numbered years without the political noise and tumult of general election years. Well, the 3rd Congressional District special election to replace Congressman Jason Chaffetz is adding some unusual summertime political heat. So what’s to be expected in the weeks ahead?

Although our column was written before Saturday’s Republican and Democratic conventions, the intriguing dynamics of this election were established earlier. Why is the unprecedented three-way (assuming someone other than John Curtis wins the convention vote) Republican primary election of so much interest to politicos and even well-adjusted people?

Pignanelli: "The essential ingredient of politics is timing.” — Pierre Trudeau 

LORDY (to quote James Comey), this is going to be an entertaining political tussle! With an Aug. 15 primary, ballots are mailed to voters on July 25. Thus, the Republican trio of contenders have five weeks to educate primary voters why each should be the nominee — and the other two should not. Tanner Ainge (son of basketball legend Danny) is unknown — especially as to his political beliefs. A successful businessman, he will likely utilize personal resources for massive media and mail campaigns.

Provo Mayor John Curtis is very popular. But opposing campaigns will happily point out he is a former Democratic Party officer and candidate for the Legislature. (Such heinous acts are subject to the death penalty in Utah County). Curtis will devote considerable effort demonstrating he is cured of this horrible political leprosy.

The winner of Saturday's GOP convention (I predict State Sen. Deidre Henderson) will have the conservative bona fides needed to catch up in name recognition and contributions.

These dynamics are a recipe for fun and mischief. What is the level of nastiness in negative attacks? Will Ainge steal votes from Curtis and create a pathway for Henderson? Is Ainge’s newcomer status a benefit or hindrance? Could the heated municipal elections benefit Curtis?

Then the big “IF.” What if Danny Ainge, general manager of the Boston Celtics, entices beloved Jazz superstar Gordon Hayward away?

This election is more fun than summer television.

Webb: This special election is remarkable because GOP primary election voters will actually have a choice. Were it not for the Count My Vote/SB54 compromise, one candidate would have won a majority of delegate votes at yesterday’s GOP convention and would have emerged from the convention as the party’s nominee. GOP voters would have been shut out of the process.

Because Curtis and Ainge qualified for the ballot by gathering signatures, as allowed by SB54, voters will have a say in who becomes the GOP nominee.

With the primary field set, the candidates have about two months (less time actually, because ballots will go out three weeks earlier) to make their case to GOP voters.

It will be a rigorous test of a candidate’s leadership, organizational ability, communications skills, creativity and intelligence. I believe the best candidate will win, and Utah will be well-served.

Utah Democrats also held their convention on Saturday, with three candidates vying for the party's nomination to compete in the final election. Physician Kathryn Allen captured national attention and raised major contributions from around the country after announcing she would challenge Chaffetz. Does momentum exist for Democrats in this special election?

Pignanelli: Dr. Allen scored points with her fundraising achievement. But Chaffetz is out, and there is difficulty for left-wing groups to demonize a non-incumbent Republican nominee. Further, the heart of the district is Utah County.

But we are living in the Trump Era. Anything is possible.

Webb: In conservative Utah, Dems vs. the GOP is like the neighborhood sandlot baseball team taking on the New York Yankees. But before the big game the sandlot team members beat each other bloody in a big brawl over the batting order and who’s going to pitch. As if it mattered.

The Republican Party is splintered, but the Democrats are in worse disarray, veering far left and alienating moderates to ensure irrelevance.

Special elections in other parts of the country are receiving national attention as measures of Trump and Republican popularity and as bellwethers of 2018 congressional elections. Will Utah’s special election have any national significance?

Pignanelli: National special interest groups will engage in the primary election in order to claim victory and establish momentum going into 2018. The media will scrutinize how GOP candidates deal with the Trump factor and major issues.

Webb: If Provo Mayor John Curtis wins, it could be viewed as a small step toward political moderation and a more collaborative approach to politics. A Diedre Henderson win would bring accolades from groups encouraging more female participation in politics.

3rd District voters should absolutely reject interference in this race by national groups like Club for Growth or FreedomWorks. We don’t need outsiders telling us how to vote.

Frank R. Pignanelli and LaVarr Webb: Global warming, Gary Ott, and 3rd District produce hot politics

While the causes of Utah’s recent hot weather might be disputed, there is no question that heated politics in the state are man-made. With our shades on, we explore the warming global political discussions in Utah.

President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, an agreement among almost 150 countries designed to reduce greenhouse gases and slow global warming. Trump’s action generated tremendous negative reaction across the planet. Does this impact Utah?

Pignanelli: “I would go back in time and bring scientists with me to create a hairspray that would not cause global warming. But it would still give us ’80s hair.” — Julianne Hough 

Several months ago, when driving my teenage boys to school, they loudly complained our family maintained a too large carbon footprint. I quickly suggested they could walk or use public transportation to all their destinations. (Not heard a peep since.)

Weird. The unintended impact of Trump’s statement is similar to the message I delivered to my children: Decreasing CO2 emissions requires more than a remote mandate from a higher authority, but through individual efforts.

Trump’s decision dramatically alters the political landscape. Conservative Utahns fighting against federal encroachment now have left-wing allies promoting “states rights” in developing environmental policies. National special-interest groups will expand resources beyond federal elections. Thus, future candidates for state and local offices will need detailed positions on global warming.

Media and public affairs organizations will analyze businesses as to their carbon production policies. Demands from Republican millennials to Congress for an alternative to the Paris Accord are expected. Democrats must exercise caution with anti-industry rhetoric on this issue or again lose their blue-collar voters.

Hyperactivity in social media will compel neighbors and co-workers to judge each other by perceived CO2 emissions. So I may not avoid another family discussion. (Shoot.)

Webb: The Paris Accord established voluntary standards, so was mostly symbolic. Other countries have not met goals established by previous agreements. Whether the U.S. is part of the Paris Accord or not won’t make any difference in Utah. Our state and country will continue to clean up the environment and generate more and more clean, renewable energy. We’re on a clean energy path.

Some states, cities and big corporations continue their allegiance to the Paris Accord. That’s the way federalism should operate. States and local governments should pursue their own course.

What will reduce carbon emissions and produce a clean environment faster than anything else is strong economic growth and good jobs. When basic needs are taken care of, people turn to the environment and other higher-order priorities. Well-off people have the money to afford electric cars, solar panels and to contribute to environmental groups. People struggling financially, trying to get by any way they can, aren’t much concerned about global warming.

Economic growth is the key to a clean environment.

Salt Lake County Democratic Mayor Ben McAdams publicly called on Republican County Recorder Gary Ott to resign. An excellent report by Deseret News reporter Katie McKellar highlighted Ott’s obvious mental competency issues. Was this a responsible action by the mayor or a partisan attack?

Pignanelli: McAdams is a nice guy. So is Ott and most everyone at the county. Until now, no one confronted this obvious problem. Kudos to McAdams for his leadership … and niceness.

Ott’s survival in office raises a bigger question. Is a full county government necessary in a valley with wall-to-wall cities? A visionary lawmaker may initiate formal inquiries.

Webb: McAdams absolutely was right to call for Ott’s resignation. Nothing partisan about it. The Legislature should establish provisions allowing removal from office in situations like this. People close to Ott must convince him that he should resign. No one should be covering for him to keep him in office. If he won’t resign, his salary should be eliminated.

The GOP race to replace Congressman Jason Chaffetz in the 3rd Congressional District continues to be interesting. Tanner Ainge, son of Boston Celtics general manager (and former Celtics and BYU player) Danny Ainge, may have obtained the signatures needed to be placed on the primary ballot. What are politicos saying and analyzing on this contest?

Pignanelli: A few wizened veterans correctly predicted Ainge as the dark horse, which he now is. Provo Mayor John Curtis must use paid signature gatherers to catch up. The picture changes after the June 17 GOP convention.

Webb: A number of dynamics create a fascinating race. Thanks to the Count My Vote/SB54 compromise, we’ll have a real primary election with at least two or three candidates, instead of having just one candidate emerge from the convention as the nominee. GOP voters will have a real choice.

I believe Provo Mayor John Curtis and Sen. Deidre Henderson are both fine candidates and remain the front-runners. Ainge adds intrigue and demonstrates organizational ability as the first candidate to apparently gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. Stewart Peay, another newcomer, is supported by Ann Romney, who appeared at an event with him.

Opening up the process to all voters has produced an exciting race.

Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Pignanelli and Webb: Rigged election system, governor's race and Libertarians

After a week of sunshine, clear skies and warming temperatures, it can be hard for Utahns to focus on politics. Because we are one-dimensional, we insist on dragging readers back to depressing reality.

Some 59 percent of Utahns agree with Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders that the U.S. election system is “rigged,” according to a recent poll. Is the system really rigged, or is this just a perception?

Pignanelli: “The system is rigged. It is designed to be rigged.” — Matt Dowd, ABC News

Yes, the nomination system is stacked against outsiders — but that is an important feature in American politics. Our beloved country cannot allow insurgent misfits — i.e. socialists and television reality stars — to capture the presidential nomination of major political parties.

Well, that was the hope.

Politics is just like anything else important in life — business, sports, romance, etc. Success in all these endeavors is dependent upon tenacity, timing, talent, toughness and temerity (Yes, I am proud of this alliteration.). For those who do not understand these essential requirements, the system seems fixed. But the reality is American presidential elections, including the nomination process, is a meat grinder accessible to those who possess all the necessary ingredients.

Democracy is what occurs on Election Day. Everything else is in politics is fair game for manipulation, strong-arming and patronizing. The parties have the right to construct any nonviolent, non-discriminatory, method to determine nominees. Yet, Democrats and Republicans have made the process very inclusive with primaries, especially when compared to the infamous back door dealings of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The current system is lightly and appropriately rigged to advance insiders (i.e. Clinton, barely) but to allow clever outsiders (i.e. Obama, Trump).

Webb: Of course, in this cynical era of anger and distrust, most people agree with Trump and Sanders that the system is rigged. Yet Trump has emerged victorious, and Sanders has far exceeded expectations in the very system they criticize.

The “rigged” argument centers on how much influence “insiders” (like elected officials and party leaders) should have, versus how much the process should be democratized among all voters. The Democrats have tilted toward insider influence by giving Democratic leaders “superdelegate” status, thinking those insiders will prevent the masses from nominating a populist (like Sanders) who can’t win in the general election.

Republicans got rid of superdelegates some time ago. That gives the party base and political activists extra influence, especially in caucus states. If Republicans still had a large number of superdelegates, Trump may not be the nominee.

The crazy-quilt array of nomination processes and procedures among the various states can also be confusing, along with tortuous battles over party rules and procedures. Yes, the political process is inconsistent and rough-and-tumble. But the unprepared get weeded out.

If we were to create a sensible, simple, national primary system where the rules are the same everywhere, it would be a big blow to federalism and state control. Candidates would stop paying attention to individual states. The process isn’t perfect and could use some reforms, but it’s better than the alternatives.

The governor’s race took an interesting turn with the entry of SuperPAC FreedomWorks into the fray in behalf of Jonathan Johnson. Will this have an impact?

Pignanelli: Campaign veterans are wondering why this national organization waited until late May to launch its attacks against Gov. Gary Herbert. The GOP state convention would have been a natural launching pad for these efforts. Further, FreedomWorks has a mixed scorecard in Utah. It helped elevate Mike Lee to the U.S. Senate, but could not defeat Orrin Hatch. Politicos believe Herbert will be equally impervious to these attacks.

Webb: FreedomWorks will hurt, not help, Johnson. It will appeal only to right-wing voters already likely to vote for Johnson. Why a national conservative organization would attack one of the top two or three most conservative governors in the nation is way beyond me (unless their real goal is to raise money). Maybe they ought to find a liberal to attack. We don’t need a D.C.-based special interest group telling us how to vote in Utah.

For the first time in political history, the Libertarian Party is receiving attention as a real alternative to the mainstream candidates. Will Utahns consider a Libertarian in 2016?

Pignanelli: America’s strongest third-party has a real opportunity this election. But it needs to abandon the weird stuff to gain traction. At the national convention, delegates discussed whether America should have entered both world wars, and one speaker stripped on stage. Fortunately, the adults prevailed and selected two prominent governors for their ticket — Gary Johnson (New Mexico) and William Weld (Massachusetts). Maintaining a mature non-bizarre presence will attract a larger percentage of Americans … and Utahns.


Webb: A vote for a Libertarian candidate is a wasted vote. If I refuse to vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton, I’d at least want to write in someone I’d like to see as president, like Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan. Johnson and Weld are fringe candidates who would weaken the military and move America toward isolationism.

LaVarr Webb and Frank R. Pignanelli: What politicos will be reading at the beach this summer

Pignanelli & Webb: Happy Memorial Day weekend! This is the traditional, if not the meteorological (we like scientific-sounding words), beginning of warm days and languid evenings (Frank has been working on his tan and LaVarr trying to reduce his girth — so we’ll look good at the beach).

Most people have a list of self-improvement books or beach novels they wish to read while lounging in the sun. Politicians are no different. Through diligent research, we have uncovered the reading list of actual books for many of our beloved politicos. (Note: the books are real. You can guess if anything else is true.)

President Donald Trump: "Self-Defeating Behaviors: Free Yourself from the Habits, Compulsions, Feelings, and Attitudes That Hold You Back" by Milton R. Cudney AND "Never Give Up: How I Turned My Biggest Challenges into Success" by Donald J. Trump.

Congressman Jason Chaffetz: "Leave the Grind Behind: Make More Money, Build Your Legacy, and Quit Your Job" by Justin Gesso.

Jim Bennett and Richard Davis, Founders of Utah United (a new political party): "Good Intentions Are Not Good Enough — A Guidebook for Anyone Who Feels Socially Out of Step with Others" by Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer: "DEFENSIVENESS: 10 Ways to Deal With Difficult People, Stop Overreacting, And Feel Less Stress And Anxiety" by C. Kruse.

Probable Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jenny Wilson: "Simple Steps to Impossible Dreams" by Steven Scott.

Gov. Gary Herbert: "The Least Examined Branch: The Role of Legislatures in the Constitutional State" by Richard W. Bauman.

Sen. Orrin Hatch: "The Longevity Revolution: The Benefits and Challenges of Living a Long Life" by John Mason.

Melania Trump: "Practice Makes Harmony — Dealing with Difficult People, Quality Time Protection, and Conflict Resolution Strategies: Forming habits that rekindle romance and restore marital peace" by C. Kruse.

Sen. Mike Lee: "Becoming a Supreme Court Justice (a student leader’s handbook)" by Barbara M Linde.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams: "Find Your Brave: Courage to Stand Strong When the Waves Crash In" by Holly Wagner.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "They Also Ran: The Story of the Men Who Were Defeated for the Presidency" by Irving Stone.

Speaker Paul Ryan: "Party Discipline in the U.S. House of Representatives (Legislative Politics and Policy Making)" by Kathryn Pearson.

Mitt Romney: "Understanding and Dealing with Boredom" by Linda Deal.

Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser: "How Cycling Can Save the World" by Peter Walker.

Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes: "Twelve Rounds to Success: Boxing strategies for the business world" by Walter F. Philbrick.

Congresswoman Mia Love: "Chasing Superwoman: A Working Mom's Adventures in Life and Faith" by Susan DiMickele.

Vice President Mike Pence: "A Survival Guide for Working with Bad Bosses" by Gini Graham Scott.

Congressman Rob Bishop: "How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must)" by Ann Coulter.

Utah Democrats: "The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?" By Rick Warren.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox: "Developing the Virtue of Patience" by Christian Olsen.

All those candidates running in the 3rd Congressional District special election: "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Government and Politics" by Franco Scardino, AND "10 Ways to Stand Out From the Crowd: How to Out-Think and Out-Perform the Competition" by Connie Podesta and Jean Gatz.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski: "No Apologies: Powerful Lessons In Life, Love & Politics" by Alisha Thomas Morgan.

The Trump Cabinet: "Surviving a Toxic Workplace" by Linnda Durre.

Congressman Chris Stewart: "Nice Guys Finish First" by Doug Sandler.

Congressional Democrats: "The Book of No! 250 Ways to Say No – and Mean It" By Susan Newman.

Congressional Republicans: "Coping with Chaos: Seven Simple Tools" by Glenda Eoyang.

Supporters of Count My Vote/SB54: "A Troublemaker’s Handbook – How to Fight Back and Win" by Jane Slaughter.

Supporters of continuing the lawsuit against SB54: "How to Quit Gracefully – 4 Tips for the Consummate Professional" by Jaleh Bisharat (article).

State Sen. Jim Dabakis: "Four Ways to Become More Relevant" by Geoffrey James, AND "Trumpocalypse?: The Liberal’s Guide to Saving the World" by Harry Widdifield.

New Utah Republican Party Chairman Rob Anderson: "The Turnaround Manager's Handbook" by Richard S. Sloma, AND "How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt" by Jerrold Mundis.

State Sen. Curt Bramble: "Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In" by Roger Fisher.

All those political wannabees waiting for Hatch to retire: "Overcoming Life’s Disappointments" by Rabbi Harold Kushner.

Third Congressional District Candidate Tanner Ainge: "The Power of Dadhood" by Michael Bryon Smith.

LaVarr Webb: "The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog" (it’s a short book — actually a quote by Mark Twain), AND "Farming for Dummies" by Theresa Husarik.

Frank Pignanelli: "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Well" by Laurie Rozakis.


Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Washington circus impacts public policy and Utah delegation

Your columnists have made every effort (and sometimes achieved the impossible) to avoid discussing the presidential circus. Well, it’s impossible after last week. We review the impact of all the fun in Washington on Utah politics.

Can the Donald Trump administration pull itself together, exercise discipline and focus on the nation’s problems, or are Utahns in for one long series of White House crises (mostly self-inflicted)?

Pignanelli: “The great question in Washington, the country, and the world is, what's inside Trump? It is a mystery that just doesn't go away.” — Bob Woodward

In dealing with stressful situations, psychiatrists recommend working through several steps to achieve the final stage of acceptance. Trump supporters and detractors frustrated with him must get to this level fast. They need to accept he will never change. Never.

Acceptance requires understanding the country elected, and wanted, a leader without any political experience or sensitivities. Of course, Trump’s attractions for many Americans (i.e., tenacity, unorthodox style, snubbing the establishment, rebuffing political correctness, creating a separate reality, etc.) are also preventing his progress.

Polls indicate a majority of Americans disapprove of Trump, but even more maintain an animosity toward Washington — which keeps Trump buoyed for a long time. Many citizens view Trump’s troubles as insider politics. Even after Trump asked FBI Director Jim Comey to drop the Russia investigation, and then fired him, this dynamic won't change.

But acceptance is also comprehending Trump will be in trouble with his political base only if the country suffers a recession in the next three years. Historically, we are overdue for an economic downturn.

Finally, acceptance suggests Utahns should add neck stretches to their exercise routine to avoid cramps, as they will be shaking their heads for years.

Webb: The real tragedy is that the Washington circus detracts from solving the nation’s problems. I had high hopes that with Republicans in charge, they would enact pro-growth tax reform, reduce regulations, improve health care and even get control of entitlement spending.

As long as the White House and Congress are completely preoccupied by the crisis of the day, not much will get done, especially because Democrats will have an excuse to resist everything — they'll become the party of no.

Even if many of the accusations against Trump are untrue, and much of the media coverage is unfair (and it is), Trump’s random tweets and undisciplined statements exacerbate the situation and add one controversy on top of another. Any smart politician has to anticipate how a statement or action will play out and act accordingly. Trump has no ability to think through the consequences, the optics, of firing the FBI director, revealing information to the Russians, etc.

Trump doesn’t care about political correctness, doesn’t care about how things look. That can be endearing. But when you’re the leader of the free world you have to worry about those things. Will Trump change? Probably not.

If and when will Utah’s members of Congress begin to distance themselves from the president? Does the Trump meltdown open opportunities for Democrats in congressional races even in Republican Utah?

Pignanelli: Many local officials began dissociating themselves from the president with subtle statements months ago. As the tone changes in congressional hearings and Special Counsel Robert Mueller ramps up his investigation into Russian interference, most of our delegation will paint the president as a separate entity who will not stop their individual efforts.

A recent national poll demonstrated despite Trump’s issues, Americans are unsure about national Democrats. So far, just being against Trump is not enough to change political dynamics — especially in Utah. Local Democrats must establish identity distinct from the national party to capitalize on any Trump-created opportunities.

Webb: The approval ratings of all of Utah’s congressional delegation have taken hits in the wake of the insanity going on in Washington. Some of it is, no doubt, related to Trump’s problems. Still, Utahns aren’t going to abandon Republican candidates because of Trump. Utah Republicans will be smart enough to distance themselves from Trump if he continues to implode.

With the imminent departure of Congressman Jason Chaffetz, will his replacement be selected via Utah’s current election process, or will party delegates choose nominees for the final ballot?

Pignanelli: This important question will only be answered when the Congressman actually leaves office (currently scheduled for June 30). The Congressional hearings concerning Comey, Russia and classified secrets will require extraordinary attention from Chairman Chaffetz and I predict he alters the departure date to fulfill this responsibility.

Webb: Gov. Gary Herbert is right on this issue. It’s more important to do the replacement process right than to do it fast. All voters should have the opportunity to select party nominees, not just a handful of delegates. We’ve crossed a threshold here in voter expectations. Utahns want their vote to count. They don’t want to be disenfranchised.

Frank Pignanelli quoted in American Banker

Foxley and Pignanelli team members are proud to represent a variety of industries and have the opportunity to increase their involvement by holding leadership positions. Co-founder and firm associate Frank Pignanelli is currently serving as the president of the Utah Industrial Banks and was quoted in American Banker for his thoughts on the future of ILC’s. Follow the link below to read the article.    


Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Mother’s advice: Play nice with others

Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful matriarchs out there who influence so many lives. Hope you score better than the new ironing board LaVarr tried to give to his wife.

"Play nice with others" is motherly counsel oft forgotten by us political types. We explore some topics where it would be wise to follow that advice.

Gov. Gary Herbert and some legislators disagree over whether a special legislative session is needed to establish procedures for a special election to fill a potential vacancy in the U.S. House of Representatives. If Herbert declines to call a special session, some legislators suggest amending the Utah Constitution to allow lawmakers to call themselves into session. Is this a good idea, and can lawmakers and the governor play nice?

Pignanelli: "You can’t ignore politics, no matter how much you’d like to" — Molly Ivins. Our 1895 State Constitution is a remarkable document that reflects the lofty ideals of democracy (early voting rights for women), human decency (reasonable workweeks) and pragmatic requirements (prohibition of polygamy). For weirdos like me, it's actually a fun read.

Visionary constitutional drafters also included "The Legislative power of the State shall be vested in a Senate and House of Representatives … and the people of the State of Utah.” So, as a former lawmaker, I espouse the subjective opinion the Legislature should have the ability to call itself into session. The omission of such causes annual negotiations between the governor and legislators over the necessity of a special session.

Dynamics of the 21st century are exponentially compounding a late 19th-century error — lawmakers need flexibility to adjust laws. A supermajority requirement will ensure some consensus. Of course, the governor can veto anything if lawmakers behave too strangely.

The Utah Constitution also required "the metric system be taught in the public schools.” Our ancestors eventually amended it out (thank goodness), so common sense demands we rectify another anomaly.

Webb: A good case can be made that as a coequal branch of government, the Legislature should be able to call itself into special session. However, the background here is that the reason legislators want a special session is to pass a law allowing political party delegates to choose nominees if a House vacancy occurs. If that’s the agenda of those who want to amend the Constitution, then I predict the proposed amendment will fail.

Voters want to choose nominees to fill a congressional vacancy, not have their vote usurped by a small group of delegates who are not representative of them. It would be easy to defeat such a constitutional amendment if the hidden agenda is to disenfranchise voters.

Pignanelli: Immediately after passage of their Obamacare reform, House leaders publicly pleaded for Senate assistance. Hatch, as Senate Finance Committee chairman, possesses the unique position to impact and influence all major deliberations. Lee publicly articulated many concerns with both House bills. Their involvement purchases peace across the GOP spectrum.

Players in health care legislation understand the Senate is where they can maneuver without pressure from the House Freedom Caucus. But legislation must be crafted by July. This should force lawmakers to play nice and develop something. Otherwise they will get spanked in 2018.

Webb: Hatch came under fire for stating the truth that once citizens receive a benefit provided by taxpayers, it’s very difficult to take it away. It will be impossible to craft a health care plan that makes everyone happy — that doesn’t force people to buy insurance, that covers low-income people at a price they can afford, that doesn’t discriminate against pre-existing conditions, and that doesn’t bust the budget, boost taxes or run up enormous deficits.

Health care was in crisis before Obamacare and during Obamacare, and little relief is in sight. As I’ve written previously, we may be headed toward a Medicare-like, single-payer system. At that point, expensive treatment will be rationed and expert panels will determine who is eligible for what medical care. But everyone will have basic coverage.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos were both in Utah last week. Can they get Utahns to play nice on such topics as national monument designation and school choice?

Pignanelli: State leaders appropriately showcased Utah's efforts to provide a practical and quality public education. Remember, Utahns resoundingly rejected vouchers. Zinke clearly anticipates some modifications to the monument designation, fostering plans for summer protests.

Webb: I’m glad Zinke spent a lot of time with Utah elected officials at all levels — the people who were chosen by citizens to represent them. Zinke will certainly protect Bears Ears and Grand Staircase national monuments. But I expect he will reduce their size and perhaps change designation status. That would be appropriate.

Betsy DeVos brings a breath of fresh air into education, espousing local control and more parental choice — and higher pay for good teachers. I support significantly more money for public schools, where the vast majority of Utah students will always be educated. But public schools could benefit from reform, choice, innovation and competition.

Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: A few political rumors to chew on

Pignanelli and Webb: Our mothers taught us not to spread gossip. We adore our mothers and we will honor their heartfelt instruction . . . on Mother's Day. Until then, we will engage in our usual rumormongering. Here is some of the hot speculation.

All things Jason Chaffetz. We keep hearing that his next gig is so good that he may not run for governor 2020 (but 2028 is still an option). So what are his plans? He and his close circle are being cute and coy, but we discern that it is likely something in the communications realm. Speculation is he will have a slot on Fox News. Remember, his announcement came almost simultaneously with the departure of Bill O'Reilly.

Chaffetz replacement. Recent polling by Dan Jones & Associates and Y2Analytics produced interesting results. Utah Valley University president Matthew Holland holds a commanding favorability lead. We think he may be interested in politics at some point, but we doubt he’ll run for the U.S. House.

The contenders who remain in polite conversation include House Speaker Greg Hughes, who is sitting on a formidable pile of cash and conservative support. State Sen. Deidre Henderson is very popular in Utah County. Rep. Mike McKell is well-liked in the southern part of the county.

Provo Mayor John Curtis performed well in the polls. He’s a star among moderate voters and a lot of business people, but GOP purists argue that his previous legislative candidacy as a Democrat could hurt him.

A wild card is the hard-charging Sen. Curt Bramble — whether he gets in, or who he supports.

Waiting on Orrin Hatch. Utahns admire the venerable and powerful senator, but most would advise him to retire. However, no GOP challenger has constructed anything resembling a campaign, and time’s a wastin’. Now, 2018 campaigns are underway all over the country.

Hatch has effectively frozen the field, but World Trade Center Utah president Derek Miller is consistently mentioned as a potential candidate. He has been very visible and is well-liked among business leaders.

Hatch has told friends that if he doesn’t run, he likes Mitt Romney, Holland and Congressman Chris Stewart.

Hatch has plenty of money, enormous clout in Washington and could likely bring President Trump to campaign for him in Utah. Some of his close friends are telling him he needs to announce a decision by the end of June, at the latest. Our best guess? LaVarr thinks he retires. Frank says he’s in.

On the Democratic side, Salt Lake County Council member Jenny Wilson has established an exploratory committee.

More Chaffetz fallout. The tug-of-war between Gov. Gary Herbert and some state lawmakers regarding a potential special election to replace Chaffetz is increasing in intensity. The governor believes the current election process should be followed. Lawmakers want a special session to pass a law turning the selection of nominees over to the political parties.

Herbert and Count My Vote leaders say all voters should choose party nominees, not just party delegates who would favor party insiders. Hughes and others say they don’t want a drawn-out process that might be an advantage to wealthy outsiders.

Only the governor can call a special session and set the agenda. Do lawmakers have enough political leverage to win him over? Probably not.

Attorney General Sean Reyes. Insiders are noting that the Trump administration wants to appoint the Utah AG as the Federal Trade Commission chair. But some national organization are raising questions about contributions he received from entities under review by the FTC. Most observers believe if he gets past this bump, he will be appointed and confirmed.

The University of Utah fiasco. Question of the week: Who is Deseret News reporter Daphne Chen, and how did she get scoop after scoop on the Huntsman/University controversy? Politicos and interested consumers of these stories were surprised at Chen’s insights and access to inside information, although some are grumbling that her reports are wrong. The Deseret News is producing interesting journalism.

Next president? The hunt for the next U. president will soon begin. We expect some political and business leaders will encourage serious consideration of former Southern Utah University President Michael Benson (currently president of Eastern Kentucky University). Frank is on his cheering squad. Another possibility could be UVU’s Holland.

Legislative review. As expected, legislators are making noise about potential audits and reviews of public funding of the University Hospital and related matters. With the Huntsman Cancer Institute now reporting directly to the president, observers will be watching for any impact on other university health operations.

Two terrific politicians. Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund is one of the most decent human beings in all of politics. He underwent medical treatment several weeks ago but is recuperating. We wish him well.

Three-term Holladay City Council member Patricia Murphy Pignanelliannounced last week that she will not seek a fourth term. Pignanelli is well-known for envisioning and implementing the renaissance of wonderful restaurants and trendy stores in Holladay. Her family is especially proud of the leadership she demonstrated in securing a new larger liquor store.