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Herbert on his own

Published November 6, 2012 11:37 pm

Governor now unquestioned leader
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The governorship of Utah now belongs to Gary Herbert. No longer the man who dropped into office when Jon Huntsman left office to become ambassador to China, the Republican chief executive Tuesday won his own full four-year term in office by a comfortable margin over retired Gen. Peter Cooke.

The attorney general's office also remained in Republican hands, as the hand-picked successor to outgoing A.G. Mark Shurtleff, John Swallow, cruised to an easy victory over Weber County prosecutor Dee Smith. This is troubling, given Swallow's history of being a supplicant to questionable businesses such as the payday loan shops. But it is what it is.

Meanwhile, Salt Lake County showed itself to be a Democratic island in an overwhelmingly Republican state. That's where Ben McAdams, one of the few Democrats in the Utah Senate and an aide to Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, defeated Republican Mark Crockett. With that, McAdams becomes the de facto leader of the party in Utah and a name to watch if the party is to spread its influence beyond the county in years to come.

Herbert now has a full four years, and an overwhelming Republican majority in the Utah Legislature, to put forth an agenda that is more than being a cheerleader for, and the beneficiary of, the state's successful business community. He has shown pleasing glimmers of doing just that.

Herbert believably makes much of his commitment to education. In that, he echoes many of his friends in the business community by making the argument that a well-educated workforce is key to the continued growth of existing Utah businesses and its ability to attract more of the kind of enterprises that provide high-paying jobs in low-polluting industries.

The re-elected governor has some work to do on other fronts, too. His reputation as a good manager, and Utah's status as a well-managed state, were tainted by a scandal involving the bids for the massive rebuild of I-15 through Utah County, by a frightening data breach in the Utah Health Department, and by a scathing audit of the state's liquor authority.

Such management flaws must be cured, and soon.

The governor must also show some more of the backbone he has exhibited in pushing the Legislature to walk back on its 2011 attempt to gut the state's open records law and his veto of a bill that would have eviscerated sex education in the state's public schools.

A full four-year term. A Legislature dominated by his own party. These should provide Gary Herbert with the tools he needs to be something other than Jon Huntsman's successor.