A year-end review of Utah politics in 2013

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah had an active year in politics, from a scandal in the Attorney General's office to a government in shutdown to a congressman calling it quits.

Amendment 3

A ruling overturning Utah's Amendment 3 — which defines marriage as between one man and one woman — stole the headlines five days before Christmas when Judge Robert Shelby ruled that the limit on individual rights was unconstitutional.

Dozens of same-sex couples responded by crowding county clerks' offices in Utah to receive licenses and get married on the spot. Agitation came swiftly and the governor ordered the acting attorney general to appeal.

Congressman Jim Matheson

Rep. Jim Matheson dropped a political bombshell one week before Christmas by announcing he won't run for re-election.

His decision short-circuits the much-anticipated Matheson vs. Mia Love rematch. But Matheson said he is keeping the door open for a future run for Senate or for Governor.

"There's no plan for me right now. I have a very open mind, everything is on the table for what's next but there's nothing I'm leaning toward right now," Matheson said.

John Swallow

There was another sudden departure from public office on Dec. 2 — a milestone in the John Swallow saga that dominated the headlines most of the year.

Swallow quit as Attorney General to — in his words — "stop the madness."

"The toll on my family, the toll on the office and the toll on our finances has been too much. It is time for it to stop," Swallow said.

Senator Mike Lee

Sen. Mike Lee made headlines and saw his approval ratings go into a free fall during the 16 days the federal government shut down.

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Along with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Lee took the lead in the effort to defund the Affordable Care Act. Lee still has plenty of supporters, and he has no regrets.

"Some people criticized me for that. Some people called it radical. And I said this is exactly what I promised to do and I'm keeping a promise to my voters in Utah," Lee said.

Governor Gary Herbert

For economic reasons, Gov. Gary Herbert ordered Utah "loan" the federal government money to re-open the state's national parks during the federal shutdown.

But earlier in the year, Herbert made a more controversial decision when he vetoed a bill that would have allowed Utahns to carry a weapon anywhere without a permit. Supporters of the bill plan to bring the issue up again.

Utah's Lieutenant Governor

The state got a new Lt. Governor, Spencer Cox, after Greg Bell left the office for a higher paying job. Bell said the recession was "not kind to those of us in real estate," and he therefore had some liabilities to plan for.

Additionally, Bell said, "I'm a citizen politician. I've never viewed politics as a career."

Count My Vote

A ballot initiative took shape this year as well. Top Republicans and Democrats started a petition to move Utah to a Primary system of selecting candidates. Opponents are mounting a counter-campaign.

A fierce election year is shaping up for 2014 as well.


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Richard Piatt


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