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Rolly: Henderson-Dayton rivalry plays out in Utah Senate, GOP convention

Published June 23, 2017 9:35 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A little-known subplot in the drama to replace outgoing Rep. Jason Chaffetz is the apparent resentment between two of the three women in the Senate Republican caucus that spilled over in the GOP convention last week.

Delegates chose former state Rep. Chris Herrod on the fifth ballot to be the convention's nominee in the 3rd Congressional District. He prevailed over a large field as candidates were eliminated in successive ballots until he ultimately outpolled Sen. Deidre Henderson of Spanish Fork.

He joins Provo Mayor John Curtis and investment adviser Tanner Ainge — both of whom qualified by gathering petition signatures — on the Republican primary ballot.



But Herrod's victory was a surprise, because the odds-on favorite had been Henderson. She led in the earlier tallies before Herrod picked up most of the support from the eliminated candidates in the later rounds.

Enter the intrigue.

Sen. Margaret Dayton of Orem was the only woman in the Senate Republican caucus for several years. She clearly enjoyed that status, being dubbed "the Iron Lady" and carving out an image of a tough female conservative on Utah's Capitol Hill.

Henderson, who had been a Chaffetz aide, joined the Senate in 2013 and made a name for herself, carrying significant legislation as a newcomer.

At a GOP breakfast in her first year, Senate leaders invited Henderson to the front. The first question Senate President Wayne Niederhauser asked was which of the all-male leadership she would like to date.

"That's your question?" she asked in astonishment.

Niederhauser, realizing the stupidity of the moment, immediately apologized, but the admiration for the new woman on the block was clear.

Those familiar with politics and personalities inside the Senate GOP caucus say tension has existed between Dayton and Henderson ever since, especially when Niederhauser, R-Sandy, elevated Henderson to Senate Rules Committee chairwoman, a coveted post previously held by Dayton.

That might explain Dayton's apparent obsession with Henderson in the bid to replace Chaffetz. When Henderson announced she would seek the U.S. House seat, sources say, Dayton urged other prominent Republicans to enter the race to block her younger Senate colleague.

Dayton eventually dived into the chase herself and circulated campaign material that seemed to target only Henderson — despite the fact that other Republicans were running. One flyer compared Dayton's conservative credentials with Henderson's without mentioning any of the other GOP contenders.

Henderson also drew a barrage of negative comments on GOP social media sites, questioning her authenticity as a conservative Republican.

All that apparently took its toll. While Dayton didn't gain enough support to capture the party nod herself, she may have dinged Henderson enough for Herrod to emerge.

Sharing problem? • When Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke toured national monuments in southern Utah last month, Deseret News reporter Amy Joi O'Donoghue went horseback riding in Bears Ears with the Cabinet member and his entourage and wrote a story about the experience. A News photographer also went along and provided pictures. News Editor Doug Wilks then wrote a column about O'Donoghue and her exclusive.

Trouble is, the guest tally filed with the governor's office for Zinke's excursion — and obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune through a records request — listed O'Donoghue and her photographer as "pool reporters."

Pool journalists are designated media representatives chosen to attend high-profile events who then share their reporting and photos with the rest of the media. They're not supposed to turn exclusives.

Paul Edwards, Gov. Gary Herbert's deputy chief of staff and a former editor of the Deseret News, said Zinke's office handled media arrangements for the visit. Edwards said he made suggestions and tried to encourage exclusive time for each of the media organizations.

Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift, who said the governor's office assembled the list, noted the News was given that special access in Bears Ears, and The Tribune got an exclusive later in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. She was talking about a 17-minute interview The Tribune's Matt Piper got with Zinke as the Interior boss was on his way to his helicopter.

Wilks said his newspaper never was told the Bears Ears ride would be a pool arrangement and that it was considered an exclusive.

Double agent? • Utah Sen. Mike Lee, usually a partisan Republican, has been an early critic of the GOP Senate health plan and the secrecy that has surrounded it. Maybe that's why, when he was interviewed Wednesday on MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," he was listed as "Sen. Mike Lee, D-Utah."

prolly@sltrib.com

 

 

 

 

 

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