ST. GEORGE — Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox teased the possibility of running for governor in 2020 at a meeting Wednesday in St. George.
While speaking to economic developers at the Utah Alliance for Economic Development at Dixie Technical College, Cox was asked by one of the attendees if he was thinking about running in 2020.
“I’m actively thinking about 2020,” Cox said. “A year ago, I would have told you it was 80/20 no, and now it’s probably the other way around. But that’s still a long ways to go.”
Cox said he and his wife enjoyed their lives before becoming a politician, but he does see it as an important endeavor.
“We made a pact that if we ever really loved [being in politics] more than our old life, that would mean it’s time to get out,” Cox said. “But we’re not there yet.”
Cox’s announcement was met with cheers and applause from the audience, which was largely comprised of economic developers from cities in northern Utah.
Sherie Martell, former chairwoman of the alliance, who attended the meeting, said she loved Cox’s announcement and said she hopes he will run in the election.
“He’s a rural guy who understands the economic problems in our state,” Martell said. “If he were to come into office, he’d bring a lot of people together.”
Economic problems in Utah
While Utah has experienced a 4 percent unemployment rate for the last four years, Cox said the rural parts of the state have not seen the same job growth as places like St. George, the Wasatch Front or Cache Valley.
“One of the mistakes we make, especially on capitol hill, is we tend to see rural Utah as one ubiquitous whole; you’ve got us and then you’ve got rural,” Cox said. “Truth is, every community is unique. They all have their own challenges, but they also all have their own opportunities.”
Officials from rural communities in Utah are in the process of meeting with and presenting their own economic plan to Gov. Gary Herbert, Cox said.
Cox also said people in St. George should look forward to more technology companies that are considering coming to the city.
“I know there are some great announcements in the coming days and months about businesses and opportunities that want to locate here that are kind of offshoots of ‘Silicon Slopes,’” Cox said.
Mayor Jon Pike also told St. George News this week officials are offering tax incentives in negotiations to bring more companies to St. George.
Cox stressed the importance of training more people in Utah to have technical work skills.
“We need people in technical jobs, which is why we’re [at Dixie Technical College] right now,” Cox said. “Too many people think they have to go to a mainstream college to be successful, which is just not true.”
Although this is an election year, Cox said he believes 2018 is the time to start reforming taxes in Utah.
“It’s hard to mess with taxes when people are up for reelection, unfortunately,” Cox said. “But we believe that it’s time to reevaluate, to start closing loopholes and to make sure that our tax system is balanced.”
He also said it will be “fascinating” to see all the ways the tax changes at the federal level will affect Utah.
Cox said the medical marijuana initiative has a decent chance to make it on the ballot this year and a 50 percent chance of passing if it makes it on the ballot.
“If we can really treat marijuana as a medication like we do all other medications, [Herbert] would support it and I think most Utahns would,” Cox said. “The problem is, we’re not quite there yet. If it doesn’t pass, I think in the next five years we will have it in the state of Utah.”
Suicide prevention is another issue Cox hopes to tackle in Utah. He said his own struggles with suicidal thoughts when he was a child helped inspire him to do more to combat suicide and mental illness in Utah.
“We’re hoping to announce a big initiative next week on suicide prevention,” Cox said. “Our youth suicide rates are just way too high and we’ve got to do more. It turns out, talking about it is one of the best ways to help kids not to go there.”
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