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In politics, this is what you call a sucker punch.

State Sen. Karen Mayne, long a conduit between business and labor, was summarily yanked from the Legislature's Business and Labor Committee by Senate President Mike Waddoups.

No warning. No discussion. Waddoups, the Taylorsville Republican who is leaving the Legislature at year's end, apparently had a disagreement with Mayne, a West Valley City Democrat, over a Salt Lake Community College issue.

Tell that to her colleagues on the panel and throughout the Legislature. Tell that to her constituents, who elected her in 2008 after she took the seat held by her late husband, labor lion Eddie Mayne.

Karen Mayne is a smart, no-nonsense woman, well-versed in Utah labor and the employers who hire them. She learned that during decades of work alongside her husband, a longtime leader of Utah's AFL-CIO who also served in the Senate until his death in 2007.

As a member of the Senate Business and Labor Committee since her election, she has built bridges between labor and conservative GOP lawmakers.

One of them, Sen. Curt Bramble, worked with her before his election in 2000 and considers her a strong ally. During the political redistricting of 2001, he and the Maynes sat down at the kitchen table and drafted a version that wasn't adopted, but helped seal their friendship.

"Karen and I have teamed up on Team America first, instead of red jerseys and blue jerseys," the Provo Republican says. "She has had a very strong batting average."

Dale Cox, head of Utah's AFL-CIO, says Mayne brought "insights and decades of experience to that committee. You can't teach experience, and that's what she brings."

I've gotten to know Mayne during the past few years and see her the same way. She's tough. She's passionate about serving her constituents. She's always thinking about roads, streetlights, SLCC, businesses and all the people who rely on her.

In fact, Mary Jayne Davis, a SLCC professor, has for the past few years invited Mayne and me to talk to her women's issues and literature classes.

Mayne's principal message to the women: "A man is not a financial plan." Learn a trade, she says, be a nurse, anything you want, but make sure you can take care of yourself and your children.

And, clearly, the women listen to her.

Mayne, Davis says, "does everything for us out here. It's the west side, a working-class community that needs someone who understands the community and how hard we work. She gives us a presence. For women of color who are voiceless, Karen is there to be their voice."

In the end, Mayne's exile from the Business and Labor Committee appears a political power play by an arrogant man on the way out. As he leaves, Waddoups should ponder one of Mayne's sayings: "Can doesn't mean you should."

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at, and Twitter: @pegmcentee.

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