Becky Lockhart serious about superintendent spot but not ruling out run for governor

Published: Saturday, Aug. 30 2014 2:05 p.m. MDT

Speaker Becky Lockhart and Nathan Andelin listen during Utah Legislature Education Task Force curriculum demonstrations at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Even though outgoing House Speaker Becky Lockhart is serious about her bid to become the state superintendent of public schools, the Provo Republican doesn't appear to be ruling out a run for governor.

"She's not afraid to put a bold idea out there and have it vetted. If people aren't ready for it, she's not afraid to move on to the next big thing," Lockhart's campaign consultant, Sherrie Hall Everett, told the Deseret News.

The two-term speaker had been widely seen as challenging Gov. Gary Herbert in 2016 until her surprising recent confirmation that she had applied to be the next state superintendent of public instruction.

Lockhart, who attracted attention to a potential race by labeling Herbert an "inaction figure" during the 2014 Legislature, declined "in deference to the state school board and the integrity of the hiring process" to comment on her political future.

In a statement, Lockhart said she "spent many hours pondering the possibilities and opportunities for me to continue to serve Utah and her residents" and trusted her application for superintendent would be considered on its "unique merits."

Lockhart is seeking to replace State Superintendent Martell Menlove, who announced his resignation in March but recently said he would not stay on as planned through the search process.

Hall Everett and others close to Lockhart said that doesn't mean she won't run for governor, though if the Utah State School Board does select her for the superintendent's job, that could mean delaying the race until 2020.

"Things don't always line up the way they have to, or the way somebody thinks they have to," Hall Everett said. "I don't know. It will be up to Becky what she decides to do and where she decides she can contribute."

Hall Everett, who calls herself a "marketing diva, politics and brand strategist," is the owner of Creative Stream Inc., which continues to be paid for campaign services to Lockhart even though the speaker is not seeking re-election to the Legislature.

Utah League of Cities and Towns Executive Director Ken Bullock, who is close to Lockhart, said the speaker was exploring a run for governor but has turned her attention to the state's top public education post.

"I know her focus is on the school superintendent position, not looking at governor. If she doesn't get that, I don't know what her plans are," Bullock said. "I don't think she's ruled out public service."

Chris Karpowitz, co-director of BYU's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, said seeking the state superintendent's post as a stepping stone to higher office is "an unusual move" that's politically risky.

"If she doesn't get the job, then I can't imagine it would be helpful. It would be, in some sense, a loss on her record," Karpowitz said. "If she does get the job, the question is how soon does she turn around and run for governor."

That will likely depend on what Lockhart would be able to accomplish as superintendent, he said. If she's seen as a success, that becomes a centerpiece for a strong campaign for governor.

But there's also the possibility Lockhart falls off the public — and political — radar in the job.

"She's a talented politician. She knows the Legislature well. But that position would come with a different set of interests to try to satisfy and a different set of political and policy goals," Karpowitz said. "Trying to do that in a way that's public and gets you credit, that's a tall task."

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