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PM News Brief: New state elections director, flags lowered for Bob Dole & COVID update

Illustration of a virus molecule.
Pixabay/Svetlozar Hristov
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Utah health officials reported about 3,500 new COVID-19 cases Monday. This story and more in Monday evening's news brief.

Monday evening, Dec. 6, 2021

State

What’s behind the great Republican resignation?

Four Republican lawmakers have left the Utah Legislature over the past couple months — all quitting in the middle of their terms. Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, is the latest to announce his departure from the Legislature. Now, the Davis County GOP gets to pick his replacement. Katie Matheson, deputy director of the left-leaning government watchdog group Alliance for a Better Utah, said she views these mid-term resignations and special elections as a way to help Republicans keep their seats. Republican political consultant Spencer Stokes said the resignations are less about a grand party strategy than where a lawmaker is in their life. Read the full story. Emily Means

Utah weekend COVID update 

Utah health officials reported about 3,500 new COVID-19 cases Monday. That’s a three-day total dating back to Dec. 3. School-aged children accounted for nearly 20% of those. The state’s positivity rate is 10%. It remains unchanged from a week ago. While the week-long average of new cases has gone up compared to last Monday, current hospitalizations have dropped. Officials said 32 more people have died from the virus but 11 of those occurred before Nov. 1. — Ross Terrell

Utah names Ryan Cowley as new state elections director

Utah has a new state elections director. Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson announced Monday she has appointed Ryan Cowley to the position. Cowley is currently the elections director in Weber County. He has nearly two decades of experience helping run elections. Cowley said in a press release he knows how critical this process is to our democracy. And he hopes to continue the tradition of “well-run, secure and accessible elections in Utah.” He is filling the void created when former director Justin Lee stepped down at the end of July. Lee served in the role for four years. Cowley’s first day will be next Monday. — Ross Terrell

Utah lowers flags to remember late U.S. Senator

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff for the next three days. It is meant to honor the late U.S. Republican Sen. Bob Dole. He died Sunday at the age of 98. Dole represented the state of Kansas for nearly three decades. During that time he served two stints as the Senate Majority leader. Dole also ran for president in 1996 but lost to Bill Clinton. However, he did win the state of Utah. President Joe Biden has also ordered flags to be flown at half-staff nationwide. — Ross Terrell

Region/Nation

Colorado River to take center stage at annual water conference

Hundreds of Western water leaders will meet in Las Vegas next week for an annual conference discussing management of the region’s main water source, the Colorado river. Environmental groups are calling for steep cuts to its usage as well as a moratorium on new water diversion projects such as Utah’s proposed Lake Powell Pipeline. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

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