Utah Gov. Gary Herbert beat back a challenge from five Republican contenders to win his party’s nomination Saturday.
Herbert won 63 percent of the vote from the Republican delegates, defeating Morgan Philpot, a former state representative who narrowly lost to U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson in 2010.
Herbert will face Democrat Peter Cooke, a retired two-start general, who received the Democratic nomination at his party’s convention.
“I know Peter Cooke. He’s a good guy,” Herbert said. “I like Peter. We’ll have a spirited contest.”
Philpot said he was surprised and disappointed that fellow challenger David Kirkham, a co-founder of the tea party and maker of custom sports cars, decided to throw his support behind Herbert after he was eliminated on the first ballot.
“I think the Kirkham endorsement of the governor made the difference at the end,” Philpot said. “I’d always thought that the candidates in the race were all pretty much ‘Anybody But The Governor.’”
“David and I actually became good friends on the campaign trail,” Herbert said, adding that they planned to get lunch within the next few weeks and give the governor a chance to drive one of Kirkham’s custom roadsters.
Kirkham had criticized the governor, as well, saying that “If things are not bad [in Utah] is it because of or in spite of our governor.”
But in the end, Kirkham said he has never had personal issues with Herbert and said of his nomination: “It was the right thing to do.”
“The people spoke and … I’m in favor of what the people are in favor of,” Kirkham said.
Challengers Ken Sumsion, a state representative; William Skokos, an energy entrepreneur; and Lane Ronnow were also eliminated in the first round of balloting.
Herbert touted his accomplishments since he became governor in 2009, when then-Gov. Jon Huntsman became the U.S. Ambassador to China.
“You’ve heard a lot of talk about leadership, might I humbly suggest that true leadership is about much more than inflammatory rhetoric or shallow soundbites,” Herbert said.
Philpot argued that the governor had shown a lack of leadership, and urged delegates to send the race to a June primary.
“Let’s air this to the public,” Philpot said. “We cannot continue to be conned by promises of politicians who do not deliver when they have the chance.”
The governor argued that he has reduced taxes, slashed regulations and, as a result, the Utah economy has added jobs at twice the national rate.
“California and virtually every other state … wishes they were doing as well as Utah,” Herbert said.
His Republican opponents criticized him for not showing adequate leadership and failing to stand up to the federal government.
Philpot’s biggest applause came when he criticized the governor for participating in the Common Core standards, “destroying right now a 100-year-plus tradition of maintaining sovereignty and control over Utah’s education.”
Sumsion said he would refuse to take federal education dollars and reject the federal No Child Left Behind program.
Herbert countered that he has fought for local control in education and parental choice, saying he vetoed a bill that would have restricted sex education in schools because it infringed on parents’ choices.
“I don’t just talk about parental control. I stand up for it,” Herbert said.
-- Robert Gehrke and Matt Canham