Lawmakers considering new options during political shakeup



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill Wednesday for a special session to deal with roughly a dozen small fixes needed on laws they'd already passed. However, the specifics of the session are a bit of a footnote to the reshuffling of Utah's political hierarchy.

The signs of political unrest were clearly evident Wednesday at the State Capitol. It's the spring of discontent for conservatives, who organized an anti-tax rally they called "The Patrick Henry Caucus."

"Goals, ambitions and dreams mean nothing without the liberty and freedom to pursue," said Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman.

Many Utah conservatives are not happy with President Barack Obama, or with fellow conservatives.

Another sign of that was outside, as Utah's republican attorney general announced a run against GOP Sen. Bob Bennett. It happened just days after Gov. Jon Huntsman announced he's taking a new job as U.S. ambassador to China.

As lawmakers sat down for a special session, making adjustments on things like education and Medicaid funding, there was a buzz of bigger changes in the air.

Talking about the new governor, who will pick a new lieutenant to fill his old post, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, said, "There's a lot of discussions, a lot of rumors going around. I've heard probably 30 different names for lieutenant governor since I've been up here today. So, there is a lot of scrambling, people trying to position, [getting] their horse in the race basically."

In the hallway of the House of Representatives there are photos of former speakers who've run and often achieved higher office. That concept is surely not lost on lawmakers considering what's next for them as others move up.

"Today, actually this week in general, has really opened up a lot of opportunity for existing legislators," said Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City.

The next major development with this evolving story will be when Gary Herbert names his replacement as lieutenant governor. He says he hasn't decided who that will be, only that it will be a fellow Republican.

E-mail: jdaley@ksl.com

John Daley

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