(This was posted by Ray Matthews, avowed Democrat from Salt Lake county. Ray and I don’t agree on a lot politically, but we do agree on this. It’s time for Jim Matheson to come on home now. I am reposting it here with Ray’s permission. I have made no changes to the original.)
On Fox13 News last night, October 30, Rep. Jim Matheson said of Republican challenger Morgan Philpot, “He quit on the job. I have the sources to back it up.” He’s referring to his negative attack ad accusing Philpot of missing 233 votes while in the Utah state legislature and then quitting the legislature mid-term.
The clear take-away from Matheson’s advertising is that Philpot went AWOL during his stint in the Utah State Legislature and that voters should be wary because he’ll repeat this as your Congressman.
I did some fact-checking of the newspaper sources cited by Matheson and in the legislative record here’s what I found out:
Philpot was elected in 2000 and served from 2001 through 2004. This service includes four general sessions of the legislature, numerous special sessions, and service on interim committees. A representatives’ voting record is his or hers recorded votes during sessions as recorded in the House Journals.
Let’s examine his last year in the Legislature, the 55th Legislature 2003-04. He was present, accounted for, and voting every single day of the First Special Session, Second Special Session, 2004 General Session, First Veto Override Session, and the Third Special Session. His voting record was 100% in every session except for the General Session.
As most people realize, Legislators are very busy during sessions on and off the floor. They’re often with constituents, lobbyists and others when votes are taken and these are recorded as “absent or not voting” in the record. In 2004, on any given recorded vote, typically four to eight members were absent. During the General Session there were 607 recorded votes. Philpot voted in 465; he was absent or nonvoting in 142. In total for all sessions of the 55th Legislature, 2003-04, there were 620 recorded. Philpot voted 487 and was absent for 142 giving him a “batting average,” as it were, of 785/1000.
Philpot was clearly not AWOL. He probably missed more votes than the average representative, but his record was still likely higher than that of some others such as Representatives Bourdeaux, Dillree, Hendrickson, Christensen, and Dougall. I spot-checked the earlier years and my impression is that Philpot’s attendance rate in those years was even higher. Matheson’s implication that missing 233 votes during four years as a legislator is atypical and irresponsible is simply wrong. Any reasonable person going through the voting records for those four years will not single out Philpot from any other representative for a noteworthy record of absences.
The Office of Legislative Printing kindly sent me copies of the House Journals. I’ve loaded them online where you can download them and review Philpot’s voting record for yourself:
* House Journal 2004
* House Journal 2003
* House Journal 2002
* House Journal 2001
Now, what about Matheson’s accusation that he left the legislature “mid-term” to go to Michigan. I examined the newspaper sources that Matheson cites. Here is what the sources show:
The General Session of the 2004 Legislature began on January 19 and ended on March 3. Philpot was accepted to law school and announced to the legislature in March that he was leaving. He did this to give his successor time to meet the filing deadline to run for his seat. On or before March 17, four other Republicans filed as candidates for Philpot’s District 45.
During the 2004 session, Philpot’s prized legislation that he sponsored was the Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarships (H.B. 115). It had passed both houses, but on March 23, Governor Walker vetoed it, but she left the $1.4 million funding intact for the Legislature to re-authorize. Just prior to Walker’s announcing this in the veto session on April 26, Mark Walker won won 70% of the vote at the Salt Lake County Convention to get the Republican nomination for District 45.
Philpot continued acting his duties through The Third Special Session on June 28. In mid-August the Philpot family moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan for Morgan to attend the Ave Maria Law School where classes began on August 23.
Why did he not resign before he moved?
The Salt Lake Tribune explained the reason:
“Anticipating that his vetoed Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarship bill would resurface for debate at a special legislative session in September, Philpot opted to wait before severing all Utah ties. ‘That bill is important to me,’ said Philpot, who, upon learning that Republican legislative leaders failed to drum up enough support to revive it, added, ‘I’ll probably resign soon.’” (Trib Aug 22).
The Tribune noted in that same article, “Philpot isn’t drawing a salary and has yet to miss a vote.”
The special session that Philpot expected wasn’t called. Philpot missed the Interim Committee Day on September 15; not much more. By September 15 Mark Walker filed to run for District 45 and the following day Philpot officially resigned by sending a letter to House Speaker Marty Stephens with his resignation effective September 30. By September 21, Walker had already raised $8,335 for the race and in October Mark Walker was formally appointed by Governor Olene Walker to replace Philpot.
In moving to Michigan to attend law school Philpot only missed a few inconsequential meetings and those were just in the weeks prior to the November election. The accusation that Philpot quit on the job mid-term is a real stretch of the truth. It remains to be seen if the negative smears by the Matheson campaign will sway the electorate.
# JOURNAL of the House of Representatives of the State of Utah. FIFTY−FIFTH LEGISLATURE 2004 GENERAL SESSION.
# “Here are candidates who beat Utah filing deadline.” (18 Mar 2004). Deseret News.
# Bernick, Bob Jr. and Spangler, Jerry D. (19 Mar 2004). “1/3 of lawmakers facing a contest in own parties.” Deseret News.
# “Republican county conventions.” (25 April 2004). Salt Lake Tribune.
# “Lawmakers are assured they’re not that popular – On the Stump: Political Briefs.” (22 Aug 2004). Salt Lake Tribune.
# Rolly, Paul and Jacobsen-Wlls, JoAnn. (30 August 2004). “Flag Flag-abuse law under fire, again.” Salt Lake Tribune.
# Warburton, Nicole and Stewart, Kirsten (16 Sep 2004). “Candidate lists change at deadline.” Salt Lake Tribune.
# “Legislator resigns to attend law school” (16 Sep 2004). Deseret News.
# “Candidate lists change at deadline.” (16 Sep 2004). Salt Lake Tribune.
# Loftin, Josh. “Incumbents outraise and outspend.” Deseret News.
# “Vacant seat filled in the Utah House” (21 Oct 2004). Salt Lake Tribune.
# “GOP replacement set after legislator resigns.” (23 Oct 2004). Deseret News.