With the ink all but dry on the 2014 election, Republican House members elected Draper representative, Greg Hughes, to be the next Speaker of the House, ending months of speculation on who would be arguably the second most powerful person in the state.
And Hughes would do it with gusto, requiring only one round of voting to have his colleagues tap him for the top spot in the House.
Hughes replaces outgoing Speaker Becky Lockhart (Republican – Provo), who stepped away from the position, fueling speculation that Lockhart is seeking higher office.
Hughes, who has served in the legislature since 2003, and most recently served as the Majority Whip in the House, has been seen as a pragmatic, bombastic lawmaker with a strong political acumen to match his laser like focus.
In prior years, Hughes has run legislation designed to limit campaign contributions, move the state prison, and expand pre-k education. In addition, Hughes is the former chair of the Utah Transit Authority and still serves on that body as a board member. In his private life, he is a Manager for Steelers Holdings, a Real Estate agency.
Republicans also tapped Jim Dunnigan from Taylorsville to be the House Majority Leader. Dunnigan, who has also served in the House since 2003, most recently made headlines by chairing the House investigative committee behind the Swallow scandal. Dunnigan, also a pragmatist, has also made hay in recent years for his opposition to the Affordable Care Act.
Conservative lawmaker, Francis Gibson of Mapleton, who made headlines this past session for carrying Lockhart’s technologically based education initiative (along with its $350 million price tag), will be the next Majority Whip while Brad Wilson of Kaysville will be the Republican Caucus’ Assistant Majority Whip.
On the Senate side, the upper body opted to not shake things up. Sandy Republican Wayne Niederhauser will maintain his position as President of the Senate, as he ran unopposed for the position. Similarly, Monroe Republican, Ralph Okerlund was unopposed in his bid for Senate Majority Leader. Layton Republican, Stewart Adams, will be Majority Whip while Brigham City Republican, Peter Knudson will serve as Assistant Whip.