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Veteran state senator and Republican power broker Curt Bramble has been angling to return to Senate leadership ever since he was ousted from the majority leader position two years ago.

He was unsuccessful in his bid to regain that leadership post this year, but he did one better. He won speaker of the House.

At least that's what the cynics say.

"Can you say Speaker Bramble?"

That question was posed by one sarcastic observer Thursday night after Rep. Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, upset House Speaker David Clark, R-Santa Clara, in the leadership race.

Lockhart was said to be running on a slate of candidates put forward for each leadership post. But her so-called partners, Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, and Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, were defeated in their runs for House majority leader and House majority whip, respectively, by Clark supporters Brad Dee, R-Ogden (majority leader), and Greg Hughes, R-Draper (majority whip).

Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, was elected assistant whip by her Republican peers, but she made it clear from the outset that she was not running on anyone's slate.

Lockhart told The Salt Lake Tribune after her surprise victory Thursday that the caucus was "ready for a new style of leadership" and implied that Clark's leadership lacked "openness" and "collaboration" and healthy "discussion about the issues."

That comment might stem from tension between Lockhart, who has been the assistant majority whip the past two years, and others in leadership who have said confidentially that there were trust issues among the group. And they involve Bramble.

There has been grumbling during the past two legislative sessions that right after the conclusion of House strategy sessions, Bramble would make comments to legislators that indicated he knew what took place in the meetings. That bothered a few leaders since the House and the Senate often have locked horns on sticky issues and have tried to promote separate agendas.

Lockhart always was the suspected leak, since she and her husband, Stan, the former chairman of the State Republican Party and a lobbyist, are extremely close friends with Bramble and his wife, Susan, a former officer in the Utah County Republican Party. The four, along with some lobbyists and their wives, have developed a tight-knit, politically powerful clique.

Bramble has a reputation as a heavy-handed political operative who often carries water legislatively for his lobbyist friends. And more often than not, Lockhart has been the House collaborator on bills and issues Bramble has championed in the Senate. All that has made the suspicions of Lockhart's blabbing to Bramble about House secrets all the more unsettling among her leadership colleagues. And Lockhart reportedly has complained to associates that she has been cut out of important leadership discussions.

Lockhart was one of the organizers of a meeting shortly after last winter's legislative session to complain about Clark's leadership and the way he handled a scandal over nude hot-tubbing that involved then-House Majority Leader Kevin Garn. Clark persuaded Garn to speak to the House on the last night of the session, when he admitted to inappropriate behavior 25 years ago with a 15-year-old girl.

The revelation took House members by surprise, and in an environment heavy with emotion, they gave Garn a spontaneous standing ovation. That brought criticism from the public and many blamed Clark for putting them in that position.

Lockhart has been working to oppose Clark ever since and has been encouraged by other conservative House members, including Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, Rep. John Dougal, R-American Fork, and Rep. Craig Frank, R-Cedar Hills, all involved in the upstart Patrick Henry Caucus, which is trying to wrestle influence in the Legislature from the more established Conservative Caucus led by Hughes.

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