This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Provo Rep. Becky Lockhart pulled a major upset Thursday, narrowly beating state House Speaker David Clark to become the first woman to lead the Utah House of Representatives.
"As you can see, it's quite a change," Lockhart said Thursday night following her two-vote victory, marking a huge victory for the rock-ribbed conservatives in the House.
Lockhart said that the House Republicans were concerned that power had become too centralized under Clark and they weren't being included in the decision-making.
"I think the caucus made a decision tonight that they're ready for a new style of leadership and that's what we're going to provide," Lockhart said. "We're going to work to have openness and have collaboration and have discussion about the issues."
There are currently five women House speakers in the United States, all of them Democrats.
In another first on Utah's Capitol Hill, Sen. Ross Romero, who isLatino, was elected Senate minority leader. He is believed to be the first ethnic minority chosen as the top leader of either party in the state Senate or House.
Lockhart said she has never believed gender is a reason to elect someone or not, but "I can bring some skills or insights that men don't have."
"I can be firm when I need to be firm ask my kids. But I also have the ability to understand relationships and deal with people on a personal level that I think will be very helpful to this body," she said.
Upset • Clark's defeat comes after a summer of grumbling from conservative lawmakers, who felt they were forced to vote for tax and fee increases and with Clark's end-of-session handling of news of a hot-tubbing scandal involving former House Majority Leader Kevin Garn.
In the face of brewing conservative discontent, Clark confidently predicted on repeated occasions that he would be re-elected as speaker. Leading up to the closed-door vote Thursday, few insiders believed that Lockhart had the votes to defeat Clark.
He had won the speaker's seat when Greg Curtis lost his re-election bid in 2008. Clark has led Utah's efforts to reform its health care system and presided over the House during some of its most difficult budget years.
Rep. Craig Frank, R-Cedar Hills, a Lockhart supporter, said he was also dismayed with Clark's efforts to reform health care in a way that Frank said moves away from a market-based system.
"The body is expecting something less agenda-driven than what we've seen in the past," Frank said. The new leadership style will be decidedly different."
Lockhart has a nursing background and, during her years at the Legislature, she has become an expert in transportation funding since she was elected in 1998. She has also been a volunteer tour guide at the state Capitol.
She is married to Stan Lockhart, a former Utah Republican Party chairman and government relations director for IM Flash, a relationship she said she has been careful to keep distinct from her legislative service.
"My husband and I have been very careful, because he has had this job ever since I've been elected to the House," she said. "We were very careful about how we interact with one another legislatively."
Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden, was elected House majority leader, and Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, as House majority whip. Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-West Jordan, was chosen assistant whip.
Dee takes over from Rep. Douglas Aagard, who was picked as interim leader following the abrupt resignation last March of Garn.
Clark came under some fire at the time for allowing Garn on the final night of the session to take to the House floor to explain a 25-year-old nude hot-tubbing incident with a 15-year-old girl that was about to surface in the newspaper. The speaker then led the chamber in applause to show support of Garn, angering some members and drawing criticism from the public.
Senate • In the Senate, the new boss is the same as the old boss as President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, survived a challenge by freshman Sen. Dan Liljenquist, R-Bountiful, who jumped into the race at the last minute.
The victory assures that Waddoups, who has said he won't run for re-election in 2012, will serve out his time in the Legislature in the top Senate spot and keeps together the same leadership team that was in place during the last legislative session.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, staved off a challenge from Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo. Senate Majority Whip Wayne Niederhauser was re-elected without opposition. And Sen. Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City, defeated Sen. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, to retain his spot as assistant majority whip.
Waddoups owns a small property management firm, Cooperative Property Management Inc. He was appointed to the Senate in 1996 after serving nearly 10 years in the Utah House.
He is a social conservative, who has resisted liberalizing Utah's liquor laws and also opposed expanded rights for gay and lesbian couples. He has also been an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment.
Waddoups won the president's position, defeating Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, after the 2008 election.
Liljenquist, 36, a freshman senator from Bountiful, sponsored legislation last session that overhauled Utah's public employee pension system, winning respect from his colleagues for taking on a complex, contentious issue in his first year in office.