Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Embattled Utah State Senator Chris Buttars Intends To Run For Re-Election, Will Meet With Salt Lake NAACP To Mend Fences
On Monday February 18th, 2008, embattled Utah State Senator Chris Buttars said he intends to run for re-election in November and hopes to persuade the Salt Lake NAACP to withdraw its call for his resignation once he explains why his references to a bill as black, dark and ugly weren't racist. Full stories just published in the Deseret Morning News and the Provo Daily Herald. A separate story in the Salt Lake Tribune does not disclose his re-election plans, but does report that Buttars characterizes his critics as a "lynch mob".
"I'm not resigning. I never intended to and I'm not going to. I plan to re-run," the West Jordan Republican told the Deseret Morning News in an interview late Monday afternoon, ending a week of near-silence since his controversial statement February 12th on the Senate floor.
Buttars also said he had planned to respond to critics by running a full-page ad in the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune today as well as holding a rally at the Capitol on Wednesday February 20th with supporters from the Utah Eagle Forum. Eagle Forum president Gayle Ruzicka said the goal of the rally is "getting out the message of who the real Chris Buttars is." They point to his work with troubled teens at the Utah Boys Ranch. Buttars spent 15 years working at the ranch, and has seen 7,000 kids of all races come through the program. He's never been accused of anything racial in that endeavour.
But now he's put those plans on hold and has agreed to meet with Jeanetta Williams, president of the Salt Lake NAACP. Williams called for Buttars' resignation last week, after he used the word "black" to negatively describe the "baby" being divided in a school equalization bill saying, "This baby is black, I'll tell you. This is a dark and ugly thing."
Buttars said his statement was misinterpreted and never intended to be racist. "We live in a very, very sensitive world. Although what I said had literally nothing in my mind to do with a human being at all — we were talking about an ugly bill — I made a statement that could be easily misinterpreted, and it was."
Buttars said he'll tell Williams and the NAACP board today that he is sorry for what he said and ask them to take back the call for his resignation. He said he understood how his statement, as well as one made in 2006, could be seen as racist without knowing the context.
However, Williams said Buttars won't be able to convince her to back down in her call for his resignation, because in August 2006, Buttars called the landmark 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that desegregated public schools "wrong to begin with" in a radio interview. Consequently, Williams aparently feels it's a pattern of behavior rather than an isolated occurrence.
"We at the NAACP are here to say enough is enough," Williams said. "It's not the first time he's made derogatory remarks. ... If he feels comfortable enough to sit up in the Senate and say those things that are harmful, he doesn't belong in the Senate." But Williams' resignation demand doesn't seem to be as absolute as it once was. Williams said she and the board "want to sit down and tell him his actions will not be tolerated in the state of Utah. It would make it easier, I'm sure, for his constituents if he would go ahead and resign, or at least not seek re-election." The latter part of that statement implies that Williams appears willing to engage in some dialogue, at least.
Update: On February 20th, the Deseret Morning News reported that Chris Buttars decided at the last minute not to show up for the meeting. He originally understood the meeting between himself and the NAACP to be private, but at the last minute, found out that the NAACP had invited the media to be present. This implies a pre-planned media ambush by the NAACP. Jeanetta Williams justified the sudden volte-face by claiming that since Senator Buttars offended her publicly, he should apologize to her publicly.
Buttars said the February 12th debate was intense because of the financial effect it would have on his district. He said before he spoke, he had been listening to other senators speak of splitting the "baby" among school districts and labeling it an "ugly baby."
Buttars acknowledges that many of the e-mails received have accused him of having "a history of being mean, then list the gay issues," including his recent legislation to stop Salt Lake City's domestic registry. "I carry a lot of morality issues, and several of those have put me at odds with the gay community," Buttars said. "Those people are very angry at me." But asked if he believed the gay community was responsible for his situation, he said he didn't know.
But Mike Thompson, the executive director of Equality Utah, said it's the NAACP that has been the most critical of Buttars. That criticism, and Buttars' statement, were independent of any gay rights issue.
Originally there were rumors, even before his faux pas, that Buttars would not seek re-election because he nurtured a desire to go on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after his term was up. However, Buttars believes he still has tremendous support in his district. In addition, a recent Dan Jones flash poll showed that 48% of respondents thought he should run for re-election, indicating that the elite who've been beating up on him are not representative of mainstream public opinion. A cursory check of prominent Utah blogs indicates that Voice Of Deseret is the only blog consistently and unconditionally supporting Chris Buttars, or, more precisely, supporting the idea that Buttars' verbal faux pas does not rise to the level of disqualifying him from continued elective service.
"I would like to be thought of as someone who is intensely committed to maintaining the fundamental moral values of the country," Buttars said. "My slogan in all my campaigns has been, 'Defending traditional values'".
Buttars is still pushing two controversial pieces of legislation; SB267, which would outlaw domestic partner registries, and SB260, which would allow public disciplinary records of peace officers to be sealed from public view. The Salt Lake Tribune's muckraking columnist Rebecca Walsh criticizes SB260 as well.
Commentary: Actually, referring to Buttars' district as a West Jordan district may be a bit of a misnomer. Only a small part of District 10 is in West Jordan; the bulk of it encompasses the even more-conservative South Jordan and Herriman.
You know, the more I listen to Buttars, the more my admiration for his audacity grows. Unlike Trent Lott and George Allen, who, when they sinned against political correctness, groveled and begged like a couple of lost puppy dogs, Chris Buttars not only refuses to resign, but now wants to run for re-election. This guy must have bollocks the size of cantaloupes. It's great to see someone with a bit of PRINCIPLE during a morally-relativistic era when the only constant is the dollar bill. Too bad Ron Paul didn't show more of that spine when he was under attack for the $500 Don Black contribution and the newsletters; ever since Dr. Paul groveled to political correctness and held that MLK Day Money Bomb, the steam seems to have gone out of his campaign.
I can see why Buttars got re-elected last time. His constituents wanted someone who will stand strong in the face of adversity and who will represent their interests unflinchingly, without fear or favor. Well, with Chris Buttars, they got their money's worth. District 10 needs to vote their interests, and not the elite interests of the NAACP or the rest of Utah's self-appointed guardians of multicultural morality.