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Utah politicians take different approaches during government shutdown

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Posted at 9:36 PM, Oct 11, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-11 23:36:43-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Senator Mike Lee continues to carry the tea party flag in the fight against Obamacare while Gov. Gary Herbert has become exhibit number one in growing optimism that Republicans and Democrats can find some basis for cooperation, with each enjoying their own very different cheering section Friday.

Lee spoke to the Values Voter Summit in Washington D.C., a gathering of social conservatives organized by the Family Research Council.

Lee's speech was marked by a tone of defiance against suggestions he and some other staunch conservatives, like Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz, need to be more conciliatory to allow the mechanisms of government to function smoothly.

"Ted Cruz and I have been roundly criticized for our actions in the attempt to defund Obamacare. We make no apologies. We stand with you. We stand with the people," Lee told the crowd as it rose to a standing ovation.

The "no apology" remark struck a chord with State Senator and Democratic State Party Chair Jim Dabakis.

"Mike Lee, we don't need an apology. Just get out of the way!" Dabakis said.

Lee described the President as a politico willing to intentionally harm Americans to help himself.

"Look what's happened,” Lee said. “The president is using the vast power of the federal government to hurt the American people. Why? In order to win a political argument.”

At the same time Lee held a firm line in D.C., Gov. Gary Herbert acted as negotiator in chief in an effort to save Utah's outdoor tourism industry from a disastrous fall season, a prime time for travel in the deserts of southern and central Utah.

"Well, the good news for all of us is I knew Sally Jewel,” Herbert said. “I had an association with her before she became Secretary of Interior, and I worked with her since she became Secretary of the Interior.”

The governor said that relationship made it easier to find a way to work with Washington, using $1.67 million of state funds to open up Utah's five National Parks along with Cedar Breaks and Natural Bridges National Monument as well as Lake Powell National Recreation Area.

Even Dabakis, often one of Herbert's strongest critics, applauded the measure.

"Democrats are very happy the national parks are opened up by hook or by crook or however we're doing it," Dabakis said.

The Utah business community also heaped praise on Herbert.

"I think this agreement that Governor Herbert hit is just a master stroke," said Natalie Gochnour, University of Utah Professor and Chief Economist for the Salt Lake Chamber. "When I heard they were discussing this, it sounded like a message campaign that would never come to fruition."