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Out West Roundup: Fearing a Utah ‘coronation,’ 11 Republicans challenge Romney

Author: Associated Press - March 23, 2018 - Updated: April 6, 2018

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Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney smiles as he declares his candidacy for the U.S. Senate at the state elections office Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney smiles as he declares his candidacy for the U.S. Senate at the state elections office Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Utah

Fearing a Utah ‘coronation’, 11 Republicans challenge Romney

SALT LAKE CITY — Eleven Republicans stepped forward before a filing deadline last week to challenge former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the Utah Senate race, including a state lawmaker who says an “establishment insider” can’t fix problems in Washington.

Many of the candidates acknowledge the David-vs-Goliath nature of challenging the famous and popular Romney, but they say someone needs to keep the race to replace Republican Orrin Hatch from becoming a “coronation.”

“I think he’s just expecting to run away with this thing,” Republican candidate Sam Parker said. “There are really motivated individuals who are going to do their best to force their way into the conversation.”

Romney is pushing back against the criticism, saying he’s working to earn every vote and emphasizing his ties to Utah, where he’s made his home after losing the 2012 presidential election

He’s known in the state for reviving the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics after a bribery scandal and later becoming the first Mormon presidential nominee of a major political party. About 60 percent of Utah’s residents are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is based in Salt Lake City.

Many of those who have stepped up to challenge Romney have revived attacks he faced in his presidential campaigns, including criticism for his shifting stance on abortion and his signing of a health care law as Massachusetts governor that was used as a blueprint for President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Romney and some of the GOP challengers will face off in an April 21 Republican Party convention, where they’ll try to win votes of several thousand party delegates elected by their neighbors. The winner of the convention, which typically favors more conservative candidates, will face off in a June 26 primary election against any candidates who gather 28,000 voter signatures to earn a place on the ballot, something Romney is doing.

New Mexico

New Mexico Legislature gets flurry of harassment complaints

SANTA FE — The New Mexico Legislature received five reports about possible sexual misconduct, harassment and discrimination during the recently concluded session, according to the legislative branch’s legal counsel.

The flurry of complaints and reports from observers about possible misconduct by lawmakers and legislative staff stands in sharp contrast to the prior decade in which just one formal complaint of sexual misconduct was filed against a legislator with no finding of probable cause or disciplinary action.

Several informal reports of misconduct emerged late last year, as statehouses nationwide confronted allegations of sexual misconduct.

In response to a public records request, the Legislative Council Service reported House lawmakers were the focus of one complaint of discrimination and one report of possible sexual harassment during the recent session. Two reports of possible sexual harassment were made by legislative staff against staff colleagues.

The incidents were resolved and no probable cause was found to warrant formal charges, said Raul Burciaga, the lead attorney for the Legislature.

An additional complaint was related to the use of the legislative process by an outside group, and determined to not be a matter of harassment.

Republican Rep. Kelly Fajardo of Belen said at the close of the legislative session that more complaints would represent progress toward greater confidence in anti-harassment procedures — an indication that “people feel like they’re not shut out.”

She applauded the decision to bring outside council into the process for evaluating complaints but wants the Legislature to consider turning decisions over to an independent state ethics commission. Voters will decide on whether to create the commission during general elections in November.

Montana

Conservationists launch campaign accusing Gianforte of ‘assaulting’ public lands

HELENA, Montana — A conservation group is launching an ad campaign that repeatedly accuses U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte of “assaulting” and “attacking” public lands since he’s been in office, a veiled reference to the Montana Republican’s attack of a reporter last year.

League of Conservation Voters officials said they are spending $244,000 on ads through April, the first significant outside group spending in Gianforte’s nascent re-election campaign.

They acknowledged the ad takes a shot at Gianforte’s assault conviction but said Gianforte’s actions since he’s been in office are no joke.

Eight candidates, including six Democrats, are vying for the chance to unseat Gianforte this fall, after the Montana businessman won a special election last May to fill the remainder of Ryan Zinke’s congressional term. On the eve of that election, Gianforte knocked Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs to the ground as Jacobs attempted to ask him a question.

Gianforte pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge.

The conservationist group’s ad accuses Gianforte of “attacking our way of life and assaulting our public lands and national monuments” and repeats that he’s “attacking our national monuments and public lands.” It ends with a directive to Gianforte to “stop voting to assault our public lands.”

The ad will run on video and radio streaming services, along with news and social media websites. Additionally, users of the mapping app Waze will receive an anti-Gianforte pop-up ad when they are traveling near certain public lands in Montana — and near Gianforte’s district offices.

Wyoming

Wyoming lawmakers cut $27 million from education

CHEYENNE ­— The state’s school districts are facing about $27 million in cuts for the coming two school years.

Rep. Sue Wilson, R-Cheyenne, who voted for the legislation, explained that the cuts to Laramie County School District 1 are a large percentage of the total cuts, which will affect every school district in the state. “We actually took about 25 percent of the cut in (LCSD1), and we only have 15 percent of the students,” she said.

LCSD1 is hit with larger cuts than other districts because of one of the biggest changes in HB 140 – a change in how districts receive money for groundskeepers. The bill removed site acreage from the calculation of funding given to districts for groundskeepers.

Wilson said, “I’m sure the district was using that money for things like school resource officers and things that are not in the model, so it’s a real hit. It’s the biggest hit of anybody.”

Rep. Tim Salazar, R-Dubois, asked the House of Representatives not to approve the bill.

“It’s going to literally destroy my small school. We are hurting the most vulnerable, small schools. There is nothing left for them to cut – nothing,” he said. “I plead with you to think about the very smallest, most vulnerable school districts.”

Wilson said the Legislature will have to address education funding again in the next couple of sessions because, although legislators and Gov. Matt Mead found money to cover the education funding deficit for the 2019-2020 biennium, the problem is not permanently solved.

She said K-12 education funding probably still has a gap of about $250 million to $300 million.

“I do think over the next couple of years we will try to tackle that problem in a more holistic way. This session was kind of ‘stop the bleeding’ and see if we could study the issue a bit,” Wilson said.

Kansas

No, a tornado did not carry home nearly 130 miles

WICHITA, Kansas — A Kansas official has debunked a widely shared story that recently resurfaced on Facebook about a woman named Dorothy whose Oklahoma home supposedly flew nearly 130 miles before landing outside Wichita.

Sedgwick County spokeswoman Kate Flavin told The Associated Press the story is not true.

The story was published in 2015 by the World News Daily Report and recently circulated again on Facebook. It claimed a woman named Dorothy Williams and four members of her family were carried in their Tulsa, Oklahoma, mobile home over northern Colorado before landing on an unoccupied car in Kansas.

“This is false; it did not happen,” Flavin wrote in an email, noting the publication’s website states the content is not true.

The story claims no one was injured in the home’s 4-hour-plus flight amid winds that reached speeds of more than 220 mph. The story is accompanied with photos of storm damaged properties.

The website includes a disclaimer that states, in part, that, “All characters appearing in the articles in this website — even those based on real people — are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any person, living, dead or undead, is purely a miracle.”

Associated Press

Associated Press