GRAMA, immigration and presidential candidates hot Utah political topics in 2011

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SALT LAKE CITY -- This has been a year previewing the big election year to come, and two men with Utah ties remain in the race for the 2012 GOP nomination.

As the candidates for President plotted their strategies, the Utah Legislature started the state's political news as usual. By the end of the session came a bill altering the state's open-records law GRAMA, which later repealed.

Statewide redistricting hearings sought input on how to draw new legislative boundaries. It was a predictably partisan occurrence as lawmakers decided how to accommodate the new 4th Congressional district.

At the same time, another new law drew fire from conservatives. House Bill 116 created an opening for Immigrant guest workers. Many state Republican delegates didn't like it, and a majority passed a non-binding resolution, urging lawmakers to repeal it.

"It does not give people a way to get legal status, but what it does do is give employers a captive labor force," said Ron Mortenson a supporter of the repeal.

The big political news centered on the race for President during most of the year. Utahns kept an eye on two familiar faces in 2011: Mitt Romney and Jon Hunstman. Mid- year, Romney and Huntsman both announced their intentions and didn't look back.

"It breaks my heart to see what's happening in this great country," Romney said. "These failing hopes make president Obama's own misery index. It's never been higher."

"We will conduct this campaign on the high road. I don't think you need to run down someone's reputation in order to run for the office of president," Huntsman said.

Having ran in 2008, Romney had a decent showing in the polls and was in a better position than Huntsman and other candidates to raise money. Huntsman's campaign struggles in fund-raising and to gain support in key primary and caucus states. But he's a media favorite. And so are his daughters, who have become on-line blogging and You Tube sensations.

It's clear that as we head into the new year, Romney and Huntsman are in very different places. The New Hampshire primary is a must-win for Huntsman. Romney has a decent showing right now, but can't figure out why he isn't more of a run-away favorite.

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Richard Piatt


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