Gov. Gary Herbert defeats Peter Coroon in special election for Utah's governor

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 2 2010 8:00 p.m. MDT

Governor Gary Herbert talks with the media at the Republican party gathering at the Salt Lake Hilton Tuesday.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert won another two years as governor Tuesday, overcoming a hard-hitting challenge from Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon.

Final unofficial results had Herbert with 64 percent of the vote to Corroon's 32 percent.

The governor walked through the GOP gathering at the Salt Lake Hilton before Corroon conceded the race. Corroon stayed in his suite at the Democrats' Election Night headquarters, the downtown Marriott, most of the evening. That's unusual behavior for a candidate whose race was called by pollsters as soon as the polls closed at 8 p.m., said Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.

"Obviously, it's a tough-fought battle," Jowers said of the race. He said Corroon's negative TV commercials worked against him, especially since they did not make an effective case for electing him.

In his victory speech to the crowd, Herbert did make reference to his own, positive campaign, saying he is proud of the ads he aired.

"This has been a very hard-fought and extremely challenging campaign," he said, but he and Lt. Gov. Greg Bell "never took their eye off the ball" and "honored their commitment to run a positive campaign."

The governor said Utahns want to hear solutions to the state's challenges, stopping short of criticizing Corroon for running a negative campaign.

"I think the people of Utah want to talk about issues," Herbert said. "And we brought to them an issue-oriented campaign. We recognized there are challenges out there but we are addressing those challenges. That's resonating with the people of Utah and that's why we're seeing the support."

Corroon said he called the governor to concede the race about 9:45 p.m. "He was very gracious and we both committed to work together," Corroon said.

He said the only regret he had about the way he ran his campaign was not spending more time meeting with voters throughout the state.

"We sort of knew where it was headed, but at the end of the day, we put up a good strong fight. I enjoyed every minute of it," he said. Corroon declined to say whether he was interested in making another run for governor in two years. "I do love public service and we'll see what the future brings," he said.

Herbert was elected twice as lieutenant governor, then took over the state's top spot in August 2009 when former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. stepped down to become U.S. ambassador to China.

Under a recent amendment to the Utah Constitution, a special gubernatorial election had to be held to fill the remaining two years of Huntsman's term. The next gubernatorial election will be in 2012.

Like most Utah political battles this year, the governor's race initially was overshadowed by the ouster of U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, at the state GOP convention, and the heated GOP primary battle won by Mike Lee.

Corroon had tried to focus attention on his campaign early on by choosing Republican Rep. Sheryl Allen as his running mate and releasing a series of position papers on various issues. His plan for education sparked a brief controversy when Corroon said the governor was playing the "religion card" in Mormon-dominated Utah by taking issue with Corroon sending his children to a private, Catholic school.

But the race didn't really take off until early September, after Corroon jumped on news reports raising questions about whether campaign contributions to the governor influenced the award of state contracts.

Corroon began airing what have been described as some of the state's most negative campaign commercials and soon saw his poll numbers drop. Herbert's campaign reportedly readied and tested some negative ads against Corroon, but never aired them.

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