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Sensing a potential spy in their midst, Senate Republicans voted to kick state Sen. Mark Madsen out of his Utah Capitol office and exile him to a less-favorable spot in the neighboring East Building.

The Senate GOP caucus had already determined that Madsen, who recently quit the party to become a Libertarian, could not caucus with the Republicans anymore. The eviction from the prime office spot at the Capitol was justified on grounds that the space is reserved for senior Senate Republicans.

Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, argued in the last closed caucus meeting to let Madsen stay in his office since the three-term senator from Saratoga Springs did not run for re-election and will be leaving at year's end anyway.

Others insisted that letting Madsen stay would set a precedent that if other senators left the party, they could remain in an area reserved for Republicans and perhaps eavesdrop on sensitive conversations meant only for GOP ears.

Ten offices in that section are set aside for leadership and other top Republicans. Another part in the Capitol is for the little band of five Democrats. The rest of the senators are in the East Building, sort of the low-rent district.

Arming for phantom foes • Just days after Democrat Jon Harper dropped out of the race for Utah attorney general, incumbent Republican Sean Reyes sent an email to supporters seeking campaign contributions.

Reyes noted that Harper's exit meant the Democrat would not be at the scheduled debate at Dixie State University, but the Utah Debate Commission went ahead with the program anyway, letting Reyes use the hour to engage with students and media at the St. George forum.

"I spent an hour sharing my vision for the future and answering questions from some of the most inquisitive minds in the state — DSU students," he wrote, inviting folks to watch the "modified debate" online.

"Finally, I want to thank each of you for your continued support. I am very fortunate to have so many great Utahns across the state in my court," he concluded. And at the end was the usual fundraising link: "Please Contribute Today!"

Reyes already was more than 40 points ahead of Harper in the polls. He still has two opponents — Michael Isbell of the Independent American Party and Andrew McCullough of the Libertarian Party. McCullough is polling at about 5 percent; Isbell's support is negligible.

But, as they say, you can't be too careful.

Hate speech and sign stealing • A Millcreek resident in the Olympus Hills area reports a Democratic campaign sign was stolen from his front yard.

Swiping campaign signs is as common in elections as robocalls. But this one comes with a nasty twist.

A few days after the sign was taken, it was returned and planted in the same place in the yard. On the back, someone had scribbled hateful and almost-threatening messages, stating, among other things, that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will persecute Mormons and Jews.

It was a sign, perhaps, of the increasing ugliness of this campaign season. The political climate might be one reason that compelled Niederhauser to write an op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune apologizing for the tenor of a campaign he ran against his opponents 10 years ago. It also might be a reason why Provo Mayor John Curtis posted on his Facebook page concerns that the meanness in the presidential campaign is floating down into local political contests.

By the way, the campaign sign's theme: "Love your neighbor, vote Democrat."