DON'T MESS WITH GRAMA
Of course Olene is the governor.
And any snake who says different should be ashamed to show his face in public.
What am I talking about?
Utah. And Olene Walker. A kindly great-grandmother who just so happens to be the lieutenant governor. For a decade she’s been the state’s grama, politely attending to no one’s exactly sure what while Gov. Mike Leavitt has run things.
It’s been a nice arrangement.
He needed a No. 2 who wouldn’t be a political threat and she didn’t mind the work at all. So everything was fine.
Until this week.
When Uncle Bush announced that he needed Mike Leavitt to come off to Washington, D.C., and run the Environmental Protection Agency. Presuming the Democrats in the Senate can’t shoot the nomination down, Leavitt will kiss Utah good-bye and head for the Potomac.
Meaning he won’t be governor.
Meaning the office will be vacant.
Meaning the lieutenant governor gets the nod.
Or at least you’d presume.
Because there could be trouble. Some of the demonically ambitious politicos of Utah are hoping to scuttle Olene Walker’s rise.
Psych question: How secure are you in your manhood if you’re threatened by a 72-year-old woman?
The deal is that half the men in Utah want to be the state’s next governor. Leavitt’s departure is blood in the water for these sharks. And poor Olene is caught in the middle of it.
So they’re playing word games.
See, the Utah constitution doesn’t exactly say that the lieutenant governor becomes governor. Rather, it says that the No. 2 will assume the “powers and duties” of the No. 1. It doesn’t really say in black and white that the lieutenant governor assumes the “office” of the governor.
Even though every Utahn who has voted in a gubernatorial election over the past century has presumed that that would be the case. That’s how it is in Washington; that’s how it is in every other state capital.
But the president of the Utah Senate and the speaker of the Utah House are not so sure. On their side seems to be the chairman of the all-powerful Utah Republican Party. Coincidentally, this reading by these scholars just so happens to serve the political ambitions of them all.
Though Olene Walker is old and a woman, she’s not that old and she’s not that, well, womanly. By that I mean she’s not going to be intimidated by the bullying of the boys’ club.
At 72, Olene is a full 20 years younger than the still-agile and revered leader of the Mormon Church – the most powerful and influential person in Utah. By Utah standards, she’s got plenty of good years left in her.
And Olene Walker has a long and productive history in politics. She got to be lieutenant governor because in their first race together, Mike Leavitt needed her coattails to get elected. She has borne and raised seven children, presided over a flock of grandchildren, run a family business, gotten her master’s at Stanford and a genuine PhD from the University of Utah.
And, of course, she has been lieutenant governor for a decade.
Translation: Olene’s not a pushover.
And she should be governor.
Because that is the expectation and electoral promise of voters. And because to deny her will play directly into the hands of the snakes who seem to think politics can be played in the bankrupt world of moral relativity.
Here’s how: By denying Olene the governor’s office, the jackals deny her incumbency should she decide to run for a term of her own. By denying Olene the governor’s office, the jackals deprive her of the right to nominate a new lieutenant governor – who may want to run for governor himself, or who may be brought on to bolster Olene’s own future electibility.
In the scramble for power and in the name of ambition, various people seem intent on stopping Olene’s rise and in sticking it to Utahns.
They must not be allowed to. They must not be allowed to abandon their duty or to deny Olene the power to do hers. If they want to be governor, if they want to exercise the powers of the governor’s office, let them run and be elected statewide.
Like Olene Walker was.
Until that time the Senate president needs to know his place. Ditto for the House speaker and the Republican chairman. Each should operate in his role and authority, and abandon this unrighteous grab for dominion.
The line of succession is clear. The right thing to do is obvious. The will of the people must be respected.
The lieutenant governor must be elevated.
To do otherwise is not constitutionality, it is a coup.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2003