SALT LAKE CITY - House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, made waves on the opening day of the session when she called out Gov. Gary Herbert for proposing to expand Medicaid for Utahns who are uninsured, but apparently those remarks reached further than just the halls of the Capitol.
Within one week, Lockhart has received more than 40 email messages and letters that vary in response to her speech.
Some congratulated her for calling Herbert an "inaction figure" for saying Utah needs to expand Medicaid, while other correspondences criticized her for not being willing to expand Medicaid. Some also went after Lockhart for using her opening day speech to possibly set herself up for a run at the governor's office in 2016. Other responses display so much rage about her speech that the contents cannot even be reprinted.
"I received some emails," Lockhart said. "Some that are supportive, some that I would have been grounded for life had I said anything like that."
One email, which was obtained through a records request by the Daily Herald, came from former House member Gary Cox who said he was disappointed in the words and tone Lockhart used on the opening day.
"Your comments were clearly selfish, openly partisan, of personal affront to other governmental leaders and certainly not representative of the people of this state," said Cox. "As a recovering politician, I am saddened, embarrassed and frustrated."
Lockhart also received a postcard from a Sandra Anderson of Farmington that wondered what she was thinking for "speaking ill of the greatest governor this state has ever had." Anderson told the Speaker that if she was her mother she would wash her mouth out with soap.
Another writer expressed disappointment in Lockhart for her remarks. The writer said it was inappropriate for Lockhart to use her position as the Speaker to promote her own political agenda in the speech.
"Utahns are not particularly drawn to rank disloyalty. I hope someone within your own party challenges your position as Speaker in this very session of the House. I will support that candidate," said Susan Young.
Letters of support were few and far between, but they did come. A Scott Johnson, of Ivins, Utah, wrote that he applauds the Speaker's comments. He encouraged her to stand fast on the issue of not expanding Medicaid and to hold strong when the executive branch begins to pressure her on the issue.
"I was pleased to read today how you are standing up to this do nothing governor," wrote Wayne Childs. "Please know there are many of us through the state that support your position."
A large chunk of the documents turned over don't go after Lockhart for her speech, but do call for her to change her position on Medicaid expansion.
Provo resident Laura Wadley emailed Lockhart and stated she had respect for her family but said she was dismayed by the Speaker's call for the rejection of Medicaid expansion.
"I know many people, hard workers, with three or four minimum wage jobs -- who can't afford dental care for themselves or their children, or basic medical services," said Wadley. "Turning down federal money that would bless the lives of so many of those in need seems not only like a bad idea to me, but a wicked one."
Another email states that if Lockhart is going to refuse to expand Medicaid, she should at least come up with her own plan to provide health care to those who cannot afford it. Lockhart has said a group of lawmakers are working to find a "Utah solution" for how to provide health care to uninsured Utahns.