In campaign for governor, Cox looks to close political gap between Utah’s regions

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during the St. George Area Economic Summit, St. George, Utah, Jan. 10, 2019 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — After announcing that he is vying for the Republican nomination for governor of Utah, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said he will take special care to include all of Utah’s constituents in his campaign.

In a video posted on Twitter Tuesday, Cox and his wife, Abby, said that after much deliberation and prayer, and despite the historic mudslinging in recent campaigns, he plans to run for Utah governor in the 2020 election. Current Gov. Gary Herbert previously announced that he will not be running again.

A large portion of Cox’s campaign is centered around unifying the state, he said, explaining how there is a disconnect between rural areas of Utah and the bigger cities.

Cox said it’s “critical that we look north and south” and ensure that all of Utah is “experiencing the same opportunities and prosperity.” It’s easy to get “sucked in” to the mentality that Salt Lake City is making decisions without listening to rural constituencies, he said, and far too often Southern Utah is forgotten during the decision-making process.

Calling St. George a “home away from home,” Cox said he plans to be in Washington County often over the course of his campaign and after he is elected.

L-R: Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and Jon Pierpont at a public meeting in St. George, Utah, May 17, 2016 | File photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

Cox said he wants to strengthen the connection between rural and urban Utah by applying a concept that he hasn’t seen anyone do before. Part of that concept involves organizing groups from southern, central and northern Utah to voice local and statewide concerns that impact each region.

“I was a city councilman, mayor, county commissioner before I ever had anything to do with state government,” he said. “I remember what it feels like to have the legislature pass laws that impact me without any understanding of how it’s impacting our community.”

If elected, Cox said his cabinet will be “geographically broad.” He said people who are ideal for a public position are often overlooked because they do not live close to major cities, and he wants to ensure this does not happen in the future. Part of his proposal includes having housing available for people from rural parts of Utah so they can serve in Salt Lake City without leaving their community.

Cox is the first major candidate to officially announce his bid, but the following list of possible Republican candidates shows how the field is growing:

  • Former House Speaker Greg Hughes.
  • Former Utah Jazz CEO Greg Miller.
  • Businessman Jeff Burningham.
  • Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton.
  • Congressman Rob Bishop.
  • Attorney General Sean Reyes.
  • Jason Chaffetz, Fox News personality and former congressman.
  • Natalie Gouchnour, Director of the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.
  • Jon Huntsman, Current ambassador to Russia and former Utah governor.

Cox said he is surprised to be the first to announce his candidacy, as in most election cycles, all of the major candidates have usually announced themselves by mid-May. He said despite being the first and only public candidate so far, the experience has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

Cox said he hopes to lead by example and show the people of Utah that campaigns don’t have to be about mudslinging. The recent trend of campaigns in Utah has become negative, he said, but he hopes to stay positive and bring about change during the campaign that will benefit Utah.

Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at the opening ceremony for the 2018 Huntsman World Senior Games at Trailblazer Stadium in St. George, Utah, Oct. 9, 2018 | File photo by Spencer Ricks, St. George News

There are so many good people who should be in public office that aren’t only because campaigns have become so negative and toxic,” Cox said. “We’re going to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and we’re going to hold everyone else to a higher standard, as well.”

Cox said that instead of rallies, he and his family will be doing service projects in different Utah communities, and when they hold town hall meetings, he will ask those in attendance to bring cans of food for donations.

“If we lose at the end of this, win or lose, we want to look back and be able to say that Utah is a better place because we tried,” he said. “I hope that’s a message that people will hopefully be excited to hear.”

Cox comes to the campaign with an extensive educational background and experience in private and public sectors.

He earned his associate’s degree from Snow College, his bachelor’s degree from Utah State University, and — despite being accepted into Harvard Law School — received his Juris Doctor from Washington and Lee University School of Law. After working in law for a few years, he left Salt Lake City and became vice president of the telecommunications company CentraCom.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and Gov. Gary Herbert pose for a playful photo in Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan. 25, 2017 | File photo courtesy of Utah Governor’s Office, St. George News

Cox said one thing people might not know about him is that he wanted to be a college and NBA basketball referee.

“I decided that wasn’t for me and found the only job where people hate you more than a referee, and that’s politics,” he said. “That’s our lives in a nutshell.”

Cox was appointed to the Fairview City Council before becoming the city’s mayor the following year. Cox was then named Sanpete County commissioner in 2008. In 2012, he was elected to the Utah House of Representatives and was in office 10 months before Herbert asked him to be lieutenant governor.

In the 2016 presidential election, Cox first endorsed Marco Rubio for the Republican nomination before endorsing Ted Cruz after Rubio withdrew. After President Donald Trump was named the Republican nominee, Cox did not endorse him and publicly criticized him.

Cox’s speech at a 2016 vigil for the shooting that killed 49 people at an LGBTQ+ bar in Orlando, Florida, went viral. Since then, he has been an outspoken advocate for the Utah LGBTQ+ population and suicide prevention.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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