OPINION – It’s just not right.
Dad was a soft-spoken man. He had a great sense of humor, but also developed a fair share of wisdom during his years.
He wouldn’t rant and rave, didn’t threaten or lash out.
Instead, he would level his soft, hazel eyes on me and utter a few words that seemed oh so appropriate.
“It’s just not right,” he told me more than once.
The words came back to me a few days ago when I learned of a bit of local political maneuvering that just doesn’t settle in my head.
Steve Urquhart, who has represented Washington County in the Utah Legislature since 2001 – first as a member of the House, then Senate – resigned Wednesday.
Read more: Sen. Urquhart resigns from Utah Senate
He had already announced that he would not run this year. His resignation opened the door for Rep. Don Ipson to be appointed to his Senate seat. Ipson, who has been shirt-tailing Urquhart for a while, winning his old seat in the House in 2009, was already on the November ballot, hoping to follow Urquhart into the Senate.
The process to replace a resigning member of the Legislature is simple.
Party officials meet, choose a successor and pass the name to the governor for appointment.
Already this year, Gov. Gary Herbert has appointed one GOP Senate candidate to fill a vacancy, naming Dan Hemmert to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Alvin Jackson, who resigned on July 1. Hemmert was already on the November ballot. Hemmert’s appointment makes him the incumbent, a position that carries a lot of weight with voters.
Would the Democrats do the same thing?
Probably, but we may never know in Republican-laden Utah.
Nonetheless, party officials moved quickly last week, contacting Ipson about stepping into Urquhart’s position on an interim basis, with the expectation, of course, that Herbert would rubber stamp their nominee. While not yet official, the party’s appointment of Ipson to the interim seat is expected.
Is it all legal?
But is it right?
Step back before answering and consider how the U.S. Senate has stonewalled a Supreme Court nominee put forward by President Obama for purely political reasons.
Understand that although not as glamorous or newsworthy as a U.S. Supreme Court appointment, a state legislative appointment has an awful lot to do with the way you live your life on a daily basis, especially as the states’ rights movement gains additional strength.
Urquhart says he resigned because of a new job as global ambassador for the University of Utah, that he has sold his home, purchased another in Salt Lake City and must oversee a remodel on the property.
“I am moving outside the district,” Urquhart replied when I messaged him for a comment. “There is no flexibility in this. Plus, your question seems to imply that Dorothy (Hughes Engelman, who is also running for Urquhart’s seat) has a chance of winning and some sort of trick is needed. The race is a non-factor in my need to resign. You surprise me. For u (sic) to bring up the race feels naive or like you’re muckraking. I have to live in the district. I’m moving out. SG house is sold. SLC house is purchased, and remodel is days away from completion. For you to link a residency-based resignation to a race where a candidate won’t get over 30% of the vote is … odd.”
To not question how all of these factors just happened to come together would be odd for somebody who keeps an eye on politics – local and national.
Besides, there is a certain arrogance attached to Urquhart’s statement, a disappointing turn for a man I was beginning to respect for his LGBTQ stance, hate crime proposals, opposition to the death penalty and other progressive leanings he seemed to embrace during his last term in office.
Engelman was, naturally, dismayed.
“I was initially surprised by Sen. Urquhart’s announcement, especially with less than 60 days left until the election,” she told me. “It seems that the Republicans have a penchant for resigning before their final term to be able to ‘name’ their successor. My former opponent, Rep. Lowry Snow, had been appointed to fill Rep. Clark’s position prior to the completion of Clark’s term.”
I don’t know if Urquhart’s handicap of the upcoming race will prove true or not, especially in 2016, which will be remembered as the Year of the Angry Voter. And, since there is no such thing as a sure thing in the world of politics, going into the election as the incumbent is a gift, an advantage when voters go to the polls.
Again, these appointments are legal, by the book.
But, the circumstances around them leave a bad taste in my mouth.
I mean, Urquhart had been splitting his time between St. George and Salt Lake City. It just seems a little too coincidental, a bit too convenient to resign now.
But, more importantly, it is disheartening that he holds Engelman in such low esteem.
Maybe she will be defeated.
Maybe she won’t.
But, the thing that disappoints me the most is his flippant quote that she “won’t get over 30% of the vote.”
Maybe she will.
Maybe she won’t.
No matter which way it goes, it is disrespectful of Engelman’s candidacy and, in turn, the system.
As Dad used to say, it’s just not right.
But then again, not much is this election season.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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