Utah Gov. Gary Herbert donates $50K to Spencer Cox’s gubernatorial campaign

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Gov. Herbert answered questions during a news conference about the Days of 47 festivities, Tuesday, July 16, 2019.

Spencer Cox’s bid to be the next governor of Utah got a $50,000 boost from his current boss last week, according to campaign disclosures filed with the state.

The political action committee of outgoing Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who has stated that he supports his lieutenant governor’s campaign to succeed him, made the donation Aug. 30, disclosure forms show. The donation makes Herbert the largest single donor to Cox’s campaign to date.

“As lieutenant governor for the past six years, Spencer has provided leadership that has contributed to one of the longest periods of prosperity in Utah history,” Herbert said in a prepared statement.

Before Herbert was governor, he served as lieutenant to then-governor Jon Huntsman, who is returning to the state after resigning his post as U.S. ambassador to Russia and is reportedly considering a run for a third, non-consecutive term leading the state.

But despite the return and potential candidacy of the man who brought him into state government, Herbert said his choice for 2020 is Cox, who has demonstrated “unique leadership abilities" on difficult issues, such as homelessness, intergenerational poverty and suicide.

“Additionally, his experiences as a business executive for a telecom company and as a public servant, having served as a mayor, county commissioner, and as a state legislator, leave no doubt that he is the best choice to lead our state toward further success," Herbert said.

Herbert is scheduled to sponsor a fundraiser for Cox next week, following a similar fundraiser that Herbert hosted for Cox in January.

In a prepared statement, Cox called Herbert’s support “extraordinary,” and praised Herbert has a mentor and friend.

“His steady leadership brought Utah out of the depths of the Great Recession and into the strongest economy in the nation,” Cox said. “Now, as our state faces new opportunities, I am grateful for the governor’s confidence in me to lead us into the future.”

Cox was the first and still the only person to formally announce his candidacy in what is expected to be a crowded field of high-profile candidates for Utah governor. In addition to Cox and Huntsman, former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes is currently fundraising and organizing in preparation of a likely campaign launch.

Provo businessman Jeff Burningham has hired a campaign team and is conducting a statewide listening tour ahead of his expected candidacy, and several other state politicians, including Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and Attorney General Sean Reyes are reported to be weighing their options ahead of the 2020 campaign cycle.

Editor’s note: Jon Huntsman is the brother of Paul Huntsman, Tribune owner and publisher.