Updated 3:55 p.m. MDT 5/14/19
Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox will seek the state’s highest office in 2020.
Cox made the announcement alongside his wife Abby in a 2-minute video posted to social media early Tuesday morning, making him the first candidate to declare a run for the governor’s office.
Ok friends...@AbbyPalmerCox and I want you to know first. It’s time. We’ve decided to run for Governor - and we cant do it without you! Please visit https://t.co/x5kT5gqD5M to join the team and donate. Oh and please retweet. Let’s go. #VoteCox pic.twitter.com/RYkSHbCztU
— Spencer Cox (@SpencerJCox) May 14, 2019
Cox was appointed lieutenant governor in 2013 while he was serving in the Utah House of Representatives. He had previously served as mayor and city councilman in Fairview, and as a Sanpete County commissioner.
Gov. Gary Herbert will not seek a third term. In a statement, Herbert said he and First Lady Jeanette Herbert “are excited to see the Lieutenant Governor and his lovely wife Abby make this decision. We sincerely wish them well and hope for their success.”
Due to the current state of politics, the decision to run wasn’t easy, Abby Cox said in a press release accompanying the announcement.
“We love Utah and serving the people of Utah, but the toxicity of campaigning made this a difficult decision for our family,” she said. “Too many good people won’t run for office because campaigns have become too destructive, and we want to show it doesn’t have to be this way.”
Spencer Cox said regardless of the race’s outcome, his campaign would be “a force for good.”
“Rather than showing contempt for others to get ahead, we will discuss solutions to position Utah for transformative achievements in education, transportation, water, air quality, housing and more,” he said.
The video announcing his decision to run prominently features the central Utah town of Fairview and the family’s farm there.
“Fairview’s a very special place for me and my family,” Cox says in the video. “There’s this sense of being, this sense of belonging, this sense of community, and it’s really defined us.”
Cox recounts how when he was asked to serve in the state’s second-highest office in 2013, it was important to him to remain based in Fairview — despite a 200-mile round-trip commute to the state capitol every day.
He said he didn’t want his status as lieutenant governor to “change” him and his family.
“We knew that if we stayed here that that would be easier because quite frankly, people don’t care that I’m the lieutenant governor and they don’t look at me any differently, and I love that,” he says in the video.
Cox’s candidacy was widely considered a foregone conclusion. Other potential Republican candidates said to be considering run include former U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop and Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, among others.
Jon Huntsman, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia and a former Utah governor, has also stirred speculation that he could run again.
A January Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute poll put Cox in the front of the pack of potential Republican candidates with 28% support—just ahead of Chaffetz, who earned 27%. Nearly a quarter of respondents to the poll said they did not know who they would vote for.