Commentary: Utah gubernatorial candidates need to pay more heed to principles than to polls

(Rick Bowmer | AP file photo) Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during a debate for Utah's 2020 gubernatorial race Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Salt Lake City. During the debate, all six Republican candidates for governor expressed support for President Donald Trump's reelection.

On Friday, Utah’s top Republican gubernatorial candidates met for a debate at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit at the Salt Palace. During questioning, all six of the candidates, including moderates Spencer Cox and Jon Huntsman, indicated that they would support President Trump in his 2020 reelection bid.

According to Cox, Trump will win the election, even if he sometimes rubs people the wrong way.

“His style of politics is not the Utah Republican style of politics,” Cox said. “We just have to understand and accept that.”

He sometimes rubs people the wrong way? We just have to understand and accept his “style”?


As intelligent, informed, engaged women, we are so tired of people minimizing and justifying our president’s completely indefensible conduct in this way. We expected more of Cox — and of Huntsman and Aimee Winder Newton as well. The very legitimate concerns held by a majority of Americans about our president’s behavior and fitness for office go far beyond quibbles with his style or his Twitter tantrums. They are substantive and real.

This is a president who, over and over again, has shown an utter disregard for the rule of law and for our Constitution. This is a president who enriches himself by encouraging foreign dignitaries to stay at his hotels, who has alienated our closest allies, who encouraged foreign interference in our elections, who lies incessantly.

This is a president who habitually degrades women, mocks the disabled, separates desperate families seeking asylum at our border, and locks children in cages. This is a president who encourages violence, attacks the free press (calling it “the enemy of the people”), made at least part of his fortune through fraud, and refuses to release his tax returns.

This is a president who, in violation of federal law, ordered his personal lawyer to pay over $100,000 in hush money to cover up an extramarital affair with a porn star and who has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least 25 women.

This, folks, goes far beyond a problematic “style.” And not one single Republican candidate for governor in Utah has the courage or the integrity to call him out? To take a strong stand against such clearly unethical and untenable behavior? Why?

Most likely because of the recent poll conducted by The Salt Lake Tribune and Suffolk University which shows that 57% of Utahns currently support the president (even though less than half voted for him in 2016).

And so, it appears that these candidates are paying more heed to polls than to principles. And on one level, we get it. If they want to win, they feel they have to play the game.

But do they? What if what the majority of Utahns really want — are desperate for, even — is a candidate with a backbone? A candidate who isn’t afraid to speak truth to power? A candidate of sound moral character who is firmly committed to honor our foundational democratic ideals and institutions and to uphold our Constitution? What if we want a true statesman or stateswoman?

Because we do. And this partisan pandering is the last straw for some of us.

Many of us are making the decision to walk away from the party we’ve affiliated with our whole lives — the party that we thought best represented our values. Because it doesn’t anymore.

It’s time to break the gridlock of what is essentially a one-party system in Utah. The deadline for declaring one’s candidacy for governor is March 19. Let’s see what kind of ethical, moderate choices the United Utah Party, the Democratic Party and others can offer in this race.

According to Utah Elections Director Justin Lee, there are currently nearly as many unaffiliated voters in Utah as Republican voters (509,374 active unaffiliated voters; 682,038 active Republican voters; 190,655 active registered Democrats). That number represents a powerful voting bloc.

Surely we can find a candidate to rally behind. A candidate who will represent our Utah values with honesty and tenacity. A candidate who has the grit and the gumption to do the right thing, regardless of partisan pressure. Because that’s a candidate we could get behind.

There are a lot of us. And we care. We care about truth. We care about ethics. We care about democracy. And so we challenge you, gubernatorial candidates of all parties or none at all, to earn our support.

Sharlee Mullins Glenn is a nationally published author. She founded Mormon Women for Ethical Government in January of 2017 and is currently an executive officer of The Everyone Belongs Project.

Alicia Alba is a lifelong conservative, humanitarian, pro-life political activist and mother of five residing in Utah County.

Debra Oaks Coe works as a volunteer on suicide prevention and is a local realtor. She is a life-long Republican who is now disillusioned with her party because of its lack of ethics.

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