Spencer James Cox (born July 11, 1975) is an American lawyer and politician serving as the 18th governor of Utah since 2021. A member of the Republican Party, Cox served as the eighth lieutenant governor of Utah from 2013 to 2021.

Cox was raised and lives in Fairview, Utah. He was elected to the city council in 2004 and mayorship the next year. After overseeing rural economic development in Fairview, Cox was elected a county commissioner for Sanpete County in 2008.[1] He was elected to the Utah House of Representatives in 2012.

In October 2013, Governor Gary Herbert selected Cox to replace Greg Bell as Lieutenant Governor; he was confirmed unanimously by the Utah State Senate. Cox was elected to the lieutenant governorship as Herbert’s running mate in 2016. In 2020, after Herbert decided to retire, Cox sought the Republican nomination for governor. He defeated former governor Jon Huntsman Jr., former Utah GOP chair Thomas Wright, and former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes in the primary election and Democratic nominee Chris Peterson in the general election.

Early life and education

Cox was raised in Sanpete County; he graduated from North Sanpete High School. He enrolled at Snow College and completed a mission to Mexico for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while he was a student. During that time, he married his high-school sweetheart, Abby, who also graduated from Snow College. After graduating with an associate’s degree, he attended Utah State University (USU), where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in political science and Abby obtained her degree in special education.[2] At USU, Cox was named Student of the Year and graduated with a 4.0 grade point average. Accepted to Harvard Law School, Cox instead enrolled at Washington and Lee University School of Law, where he received his Juris Doctor.[2][3]

Career

Early legal work

After law school, Cox clerked for Judge Ted Stewart of the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. After his clerkship, Cox joined Fabian and Clendenin, a Salt Lake City law firm. He returned to rural Utah and became a vice president of CentraCom.[4]

Political career

Cox was elected as a city councilor of Fairview, Utah in 2004,[3] and mayor the next year. In 2008, he was elected as a Sanpete County commissioner.[5][6][2] Cox was elected to the Utah House of Representatives in 2012 and became the first member to call for the impeachment of John Swallow, the attorney general of Utah, over violations of campaign finance laws.[7] Cox and Lieutenant Governor Bell served as co-chairs of Governor Herbert’s Rural Partnership Board.[8]

Lieutenant Governor of Utah

Elections

2016 general election

Tenure

In October 2013, Herbert selected Cox to succeed Bell as lieutenant governor following Bell’s resignation.[8] The Utah Senate’s Government Operations Confirmation Committee unanimously approved his nomination on October 15.[9] The next day, the full Utah Senate confirmed him unanimously and he was sworn in.[10] As lieutenant governor, Cox produced a report on Swallow’s financial interests, demonstrating that Swallow had failed to properly disclose all of his income and business interests. Swallow resigned before the report’s release.[11] In 2016, Cox was elected lieutenant governor as Herbert’s running mate.[12][13]

Governor of Utah

On May 14, 2019, after Herbert announced that he would not seek reelection, Cox announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for governor of Utah in 2020.[14] Cox won the Republican primary with 36.4% of the vote; former Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. received 34.6%.[15] Cox defeated Chris Peterson, the Democratic Party nominee, in the November general election.[16] In a break with tradition, Cox’s January 4, 2021, inauguration (with precautions against the COVID-19 pandemic) was held at the Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins, Utah, a small town in Washington County. The stated purpose of this move was to express Cox’s desire to be governor for the entire state as opposed to focusing on the Wasatch Front region.[17] Within days of his inauguration, he opened an office on Southern Utah University‘s Cedar City campus.[18]

Cox said early on that increasing the speed of the state’s vaccine distribution was his administration’s top priority. Utah has administered more than 85% of the doses that it has received, according to CDC data.[19]

In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic in Utah, Cox faced criticism for the state’s decision to award millions of dollars in no-bid contracts in the early days of the crisis and for the controversial purchase of an anti-malaria drug as a possible treatment for COVID-19. Cox says he had no role in approving the $800,000 hydroxychloroquine order, which was later canceled.[18][20]

Cox has vetoed four bills as of 2021, all of which were Republican-backed (the Utah Legislature has a Republican super-majority). His first veto was of a bill sponsored by his brother-in-law, Senator Mike McKell, which sought to regulate the way social media platforms moderate content.[21] Cox also vetoed Senate Bill 187: Local Education Agency Policies Amendments, sponsored by Ronald Winterton; Senate Bill 39: Hemp Regulation Amendments, sponsored by David Hinkins; and House Bill 98: Local Government Building Regulation Amendments, sponsored by Paul Ray.[22][23][24]

Political positions

In October 2015, Cox endorsed Marco Rubio in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.[25] After Rubio withdrew, Cox endorsed Ted Cruz in March 2016.[26] Of Donald Trump, the front-runner, Cox said, “We care a lot about decorum. We care about our neighbors. We are a good, kind people. He does not represent neither goodness nor kindness.”[27] He said he would not support Trump if he won the Republican nomination: “I think he’s disingenuous. I think he’s dangerous. I think he represents the worst of what our great country stands for… I won’t vote for Hillary, but I won’t vote for Trump, either.”[28]

Cox eventually changed course and said in 2020 he supported Trump. But after the 2021 United States Capitol attack, Cox held Trump responsible for inciting the violence.[29]

On June 13, 2016, Cox spoke at a vigil in Salt Lake City honoring those who died in the Orlando nightclub shooting the day before. He surprised many when he apologized for mistreating schoolmates and his lack of support for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.[30][31] He aimed part of his speech at the “straight community”:[32]

How did you feel when you heard that 49 people had been gunned down by a self-proclaimed terrorist? That’s the easy question. Here is the hard one: Did that feeling change when you found out the shooting was at a gay bar at 2 a.m. in the morning? If that feeling changed, then we are doing something wrong.

Personal life

Cox is the oldest of eight children and grew up on a farm in Fairview.[2] He and his wife, Abby, have four children, and reside on their family farm in Fairview.[3] Cox’s father, Eddie, served on the Utah Transportation Commission and was also a Sanpete County commissioner.[9]

Cox plays bass guitar in a garage band.[7][9] His brother-in-law, Travis Osmond, the son of Merrill Osmond, taught him to play bass.[33] State Representative Mike McKell is also a brother-in-law.[2] Cox’s fourth cousin, Jon Cox, succeeded him in the Utah House of Representatives.[34]

Electoral history

2016 Utah gubernatorial election[35]
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Republican Gary Herbert/Spencer Cox (incumbent) 750,850 66.74% -1.67%
DemocraticMike Weinholtz/Kim Bowman323,34928.74%+1.16%
LibertarianBrian Kamerath/Barry Short34,8273.10%+0.85%
Superdell Schanze/Gregory Duerden15,9121.41%N/A
IndependentL.S. Brown (write-in)970.01%N/A
Total votes1,125,035′ 100.0%’ N/A
Republican hold
2020 Republican gubernatorial primary[36]
PartyCandidateVotes%
Republican Spencer Cox 190,565 36.15%
RepublicanJon Huntsman Jr.184,24634.95%
RepublicanGreg Hughes110,83521.02%
RepublicanThomas Wright41,5327.88%
Total votes527,178 100.00%
2020 Utah gubernatorial election[37]
PartyCandidateVotes%±%
Republican Spencer Cox 918,754 62.98% -3.76%
DemocraticChristopher Peterson442,75430.35%+1.61%
LibertarianDaniel Cottam51,3933.52%+0.42%
Gregory Duerden25,8101.77%+0.36%
Write-in20,1671.38%+1.37%
Total votes1,458,878 100.00%
Republican hold

References

  1. ^ “Sanpete County Commissioners | Sanpete County”. Archived from the original on April 1, 2010. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e Gehrke, Robert (October 15, 2013). “How Cox rose from farm boy to lieutenant-governor-in-waiting”. The Salt Lake Tribune. Archived from the original on October 16, 2013. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Wells, David (October 8, 2013). “Utah’s new Lt. Governor announced”. FOX13Now.com. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
  4. ^ Robinson, Doug (June 29, 2014). “Spencer Cox: The lieutenant governor who almost said no”. Deseret News. Archived from the original on August 7, 2014. Retrieved August 6, 2014.
  5. ^ “2008 In Review | Local News”. Daily Herald. heraldextra.com. December 31, 2008. Archived from the original on June 2, 2019. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  6. ^ “Delegates trade one Cox for another for Utah House seat”. The Salt Lake Tribune. November 8, 2013. Archived from the original on November 14, 2018. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Gehrke, Robert (October 8, 2013). “Herbert picks state Rep. Spencer Cox as new lieutenant governor”. The Salt Lake Tribune. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved October 14, 2013.
  8. ^ a b Roche, Lisa Riley (October 8, 2013). “Gov. Herbert names Rep. Spencer Cox new lieutenant governor”. Deseret News. Archived from the original on December 5, 2018. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
  9. ^ a b c Roche, Lisa Riley (October 15, 2013). “Lt. gov. pick Spencer Cox wins unanimous approval from confirmation committee”. Deseret News. Archived from the original on October 19, 2013. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
  10. ^ Roche, Lisa Riley (October 16, 2013). Shocked’ Spencer Cox sworn in as new lieutenant governor”. Deseret News. Archived from the original on April 5, 2018. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
  11. ^ Gehrke, Robert (November 22, 2013). “Swallow resigns, proclaiming innocence: ‘Time for the madness to stop. The Salt Lake Tribune. Archived from the original on February 14, 2014. Retrieved September 21, 2014.
  12. ^ “Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox announces he is running for Utah governor, vows a ‘different,’ positive campaign”. The Salt Lake Tribune.
  13. ^ https://elections.utah.gov/Media/Default/2016%20Election/2016%20General%20Election%20-%20Statewide%20Canvass%203.pdf
  14. ^ “Here are the reasons Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox says he’s running for governor in 2020”. Deseret News. May 14, 2019. Archived from the original on July 16, 2019. Retrieved December 15, 2019.
  15. ^ Axelrod, Tal (July 6, 2020). “Spencer Cox defeats Jon Huntsman in Utah GOP governor primary”. TheHill.
  16. ^ Roche, Lisa Riley (November 3, 2020). “Spencer Cox says he’ll be governor for all of Utah as Peterson concedes race”. Deseret News.
  17. ^ McKellar, Katie (January 4, 2021). “Spencer Cox, Utah’s 18th governor, says state’s greatest days lie ahead”. Deseret News. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  18. ^ a b Rodgers, Bethany (January 3, 2021). “Utah’s incoming Gov. Spencer Cox faces challenges on vaccinations, education”. The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  19. ^ Stevens, Taylor; Rodgers, Bethany (April 16, 2021). “Here are five things Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said he would do in his first 100 days. Did he do them?”. The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  20. ^ Rodgers, Bethany (September 7, 2020). “Opponents of Spencer Cox wait for audit of no-bid contracts”. The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  21. ^ Schott, Brian (March 23, 2021). “Utah Gov. Spencer Cox vetoes controversial social media legislation”. The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  22. ^ “S.B. 39 Hemp Regulation Amendments”. Utah State Legislature. March 24, 2021. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  23. ^ “S.B. 187 Local Education Agency Policies Amendments”. Utah State Legislature. March 24, 2021. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  24. ^ “H.B. 98 Local Government Building Regulation Amendments”. Utah State Legislature. March 24, 2021. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  25. ^ Steinbrecher, Lauren; Wells, David (October 19, 2015). “Presidential candidate Marco Rubio visiting Utah Monday”. FOX13 Salt Lake City. Archived from the original on September 19, 2016. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  26. ^ Woodruff, Daniel (March 19, 2016). “Utah’s Lt. Gov. endorses Ted Cruz, condemns Trump’s comments on Romney”. KUTV. Archived from the original on June 28, 2016. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  27. ^ “Trump’s Appeal With Mormons To Be Tested In Utah”. CBS Baltimore. Associated Press. Archived from the original on August 10, 2016. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  28. ^ Winslow, Ben; Wells, David (March 16, 2016). “GOP presidential debate in SLC canceled”. FOX13 Salt Lake City. Archived from the original on June 13, 2016. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  29. ^ “Gov. Spencer Cox Said President Trump Incited Violence at Capitol, Defends Past Support”. January 8, 2021.
  30. ^ Victor, Daniel (June 16, 2016). “At Vigil for Orlando Victims, Utah Republican Apologizes to L.G.B.T. Community”. New York Times. Archived from the original on June 18, 2016. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  31. ^ McEvers, Kelly (June 15, 2016). My Heart Has Changed’: Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox Apologizes To LGBT Community”. NPR. Archived from the original on June 17, 2016. Retrieved June 18, 2016.
  32. ^ “Lt. Gov. Cox speaks at vigil for Orlando: ‘My heart has changed’ (transcript)”. June 14, 2016. Archived from the original on June 19, 2016. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  33. ^ Clark, Antone (October 15, 2013). “Cox expected to take office as lieutenant governor”. Standard-Examiner. Archived from the original on October 16, 2013. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
  34. ^ Romboy, Dennis (November 8, 2013). “GOP names Utah House replacement for Spencer Cox — his fourth cousin”. Deseret News. Archived from the original on November 10, 2013. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  35. ^ “Utah Election Official Results” (PDF). Utah Secretary of State. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  36. ^ “2020 Regular Primary Canvass” (PDF). State of Utah.gov. Retrieved September 5, 2020.
  37. ^ “2020 General Election Canvass” (PDF). Lieutenant Governor of Utah. November 23, 2020. Retrieved November 23, 2020.

External links

Utah House of Representatives
Preceded by
Stephen Sandstrom
Member of the Utah House of Representatives
from the 58th district

2013
Succeeded by
Jon Cox
Political offices
Preceded by
Greg Bell
Lieutenant Governor of Utah
2013–2021
Succeeded by
Deidre Henderson
Preceded by
Gary Herbert
Governor of Utah
2021–present
Incumbent
Party political offices
Preceded by
Gary Herbert
Republican nominee for Governor of Utah
2020
Most recent
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Kamala Harris
as Vice President
Order of precedence of the United States
Within Utah
Succeeded by
Mayor of city
in which event is held
Succeeded by
Otherwise Nancy Pelosi
as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Mark Gordon
as Governor of Wyoming
Order of precedence of the United States
Outside Utah
Succeeded by
Kevin Stitt
as Governor of Oklahoma