The Republican gubernatorial candidates’ picks for Utah’s lieutenant governor are diverse in terms of gender, geography, and political experience.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and former Gov. Jon Huntsman both picked women — state Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, and Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi — as running mates.
“There has been a longstanding recognition in the Republican party in the state that increasing gender diversity is needed,” Brigham Young University political science professor Chris Karpowitz said. “And this is a way of doing that.”
Cox said he thinks it’s important to actively seek out women candidates for positions, and then choose the most qualified person. But that’s not what sold him on Henderson.
“When we had the big fires down in southern Utah County,” Cox said, “she wasn't politicking at all. She was just taking care of people, rolling up her sleeves and going to work.”
In terms of geography, former House Speaker Greg Hughes said part of the reason he chose Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson as a running mate was to represent southern Utah.
“I did recognize the message that I was sharing about seeing economic opportunity and prosperity throughout the whole state,” Hughes said.
But the lieutenant governor candidate with the most political experience is longtime Congressman Rob Bishop. Former Utah GOP Chair Thomas Wright picked him, which Karpowitz said is also likely a strategic choice.
“He brings a name recognition that Thomas Wright himself might not have,” Karpowitz said. “The choice of Rob Bishop was one that I think allowed Thomas Wright to argue that his was a serious candidacy that deserved a good, hard look from voters.”
Wright, however, said the choice was about someone with lots of political experience and connections in Washington, D.C.
Karpowitz added that while lieutenant governor picks can be strategic, they likely won’t be a deciding factor in the outcome of the election.
Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson