Senate panel to consider Cox for lieutenant gov.

By Michelle L. Price

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 15 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Spencer Cox speaks after Gov. Gary Herbert announced Cox as his choice to be the state's new lieutenant governor during a news conference Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, in Salt Lake City.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Spencer Cox will face his first confirmation hurdle to becoming Utah's new lieutenant governor at a state Senate hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier this month, Herbert tapped the 38-year-old Cox, a freshman Republican legislator and telecommunications executive, to serve as Utah's second-highest state official.

Cox is set to replace Greg Bell, who announced in September he was stepping down. If the Senate committee approves Cox on Tuesday, his appointment goes before the full chamber for approval Wednesday afternoon.

The confirmation is expected to go smoothly, said Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics and an adviser to the governor.

"He hasn't had a lot of time on Capitol Hill to step on many toes, so I would assume that Senate confirmation would be a breeze," Jowers said.

Cox would be Utah's eighth lieutenant governor and the second appointed by Herbert.

Herbert picked Bell for the role in 2009 when Herbert, serving as lieutenant governor, became the state's top executive as then-Gov. Jon Huntsman resigned to serve as U.S. ambassador to China.

Bell, who turns 65 on Wednesday, said he needed to return to the private sector and save money for retirement.

As lieutenant governor, Cox will serve as a liaison to the Legislature and oversee the state elections office, among other duties.

Before he was elected to the Legislature last year, Cox served as a Sanpete County commissioner. He also is an attorney and a former mayor and city council member in Fairview, a small town in central Utah where he grew up.

Cox served as a law clerk to Utah federal Judge Ted Stewart and worked for a Salt Lake City law firm before returning with his wife to Sanpete County, where he accepted a job as vice president at telecommunications firm CentraCom.

Herbert cited Cox's experience in public office and the worlds of business and law in choosing him for the post.

Jowers said Cox's relatively young age also is a plus for the governor, should he decide to run for re-election in 2016.

Herbert has not yet announced whether he'll run again, but the governor has indicated he'd like to keep the same team in place if he ran again. If he wins in 2016, that would mean keeping a lieutenant governor through 2020.

"Seven years for someone even in her fifties might be simply too long to ask," Jowers said. "But for someone who is 38, that's not a bad deal."

Kim Pickett, vice chairman of the Sanpete County Republicans, said that despite being a newcomer to the Legislature, Cox gained quite a bit of experience as he rose up through local politics.

"The nice thing about Spencer, he's always been willing to listen to people," Pickett said. "He's objective. He's open-minded. He thinks things through very well."

Steven Clark, former Sanpete County GOP chairman, has known Cox politically and professionally for about a decade.

Clark also serves as community development director at CentraCom. He described his co-worker Cox as a thoughtful, intelligent person who has the temperament to get along well with the governor.

"He doesn't rock a lot of boats, and I think he'll be somebody that will fill the role quite well," Clark said.

Clark said he was thrilled that Herbert chose someone from Sanpete County, bringing into the administration a rural voice from outside northern Utah's heavily populated Wasatch Front.

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS