Tooele County was home to stop numbers 59, 60, 61, 62 and 63 for the Cox for Governor campaign on Monday.
Spencer Cox, Utah’s current lieutenant governor, announced his candidacy for governor in a social media video in May. Now he is on a tour of Utah, with the goal of visiting all 248 of Utah’s incorporated towns and cities.
Monday his campaign tour brought him to Tooele County with stops in Vernon, Rush Valley, Grantsville, Tooele, Stockton, and a tour of a charter school in unincorporated Stansbury Park.
Cox’s first stop was a meet and greet at the Vernon Fire Station on Monday morning. Eight residents of Vernon gathered to meet him.
Cox started the meet and greet introducing himself, explaining his public and private business experience.
Cox said he grew up on the family farm in Fairview. His father was a dairy farmer, before turning the farm into an alfalfa operation.
Graduating from law school, Cox said he worked for a Salt Lake law firm until he decided he didn’t like lawyers.
He returned to Fairview and worked for CentraCom, a telecommunications firm owned by his family. Cox said he ran the family business for 10 years. He was appointed to fill a vacant position on the Fairview City Council, served as mayor of Fairview and was elected as a Sanpete County Commissioner.
Then he was elected to the state House of Representatives, where he served for nine months before he was selected to serve as lieutenant governor by Gov. Gary Herbert when Lt. Gov. Greg Bell resigned.
He repeated the same introduction five more times at different locations in Tooele County on Monday.
Cox respond to questions about the inland port, public lands, funds for local roads, the state Route 36/Interstate 80 bottleneck, and healthcare while in Vernon..
Cox’s replies, in a nutshell, were: the inland port is a “good economic development tool;” funding for local roads has not kept pace with costs of maintaining roads, after getting caught last week in traffic on I-80, he understands the congestion problem and expects to discuss potential solutions in a meeting with Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne; and while Utah has expanded Medicaid — health care remains “broken in our country.”
The next stop for Cox was the pavilion at Rush Valley Town park.
Cox appeared to make an instant connection with the crowd of around 20 people gathered under the shade of the pavilion when he mentioned he has direct ancestors that were Rush Valley pioneers — James and Sarah Jordan, who are buried in the Clover cemetery.
The questions put to Cox in Rush Valley centered on a fiber optic internet project that hasn’t been completed and conflicts between ranchers in Rush Valley and the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration.
Cox said the fiber internet project was something he could check on now.
“I don’t have to wait to be elected governor to help you on that one,” he said. “I can make some calls and do something about that now and get some answers for you.”
Cox explained to the people at Rush Valley that SITLA is an independent state agency. The governor’s office appoints one member of the SITLA governing board, he said.
“SITLA has a mission to maximize the value of their property,” Cox said. “I understand that. But sometimes they expand beyond their mission, and we need to push back against that.”
From Rush Valley , Cox’s campaign bus headed down the Mormon Trail Road to Grantsville.
Stopping at the Grantsville Fire Station, Cox visited with children and staff involved in the Tooele County School District summer lunch program.
Cox also participated in a service project — planting a tree.
“Wherever we go, I like to get involved in a little act of service,” Cox said. “It helps remind people that we are at our best when we help others and government can’t solve everything.”
From Grantsville, Cox traveled to Stansbury Park where he toured Bonneville Academy and heard board members and staff explain the school’s achievement as a STEM recognized school.
The next stop for Cox was at Chubby’s Cafe in Tooele.
Cox ate lunch and mingled with elected officials and others who had been invited to join him for lunch, as well as a few other Tooele residents who were surprised to find the lieutenant governor and governor candidate joining them for lunch.
After Chubby’s, Cox headed for his last stop in Tooele County at the Stockton Town Veterans Park Memorial.
At the memorial, Cox met with the town mayor, some members of the town council and staff, and other Stockton residents.
“Thank you for visiting us,” said Stockton Mayor Thomas Karjola. “We often are left out and forgotten.”
Karjola’s sentiments were expressed by others along Cox’s tour of the county.
“I don’t think we have ever had a candidate for governor come to Vernon,” said Charles Mannino, a member of the Vernon Town Council.
Blaine Russell said he couldn’t recall a candidate for governor visiting Rush Valley either.
After 63 stops in primarily rural Utah, Cox said he heard some common themes: economic development — “We’re tired of exporting our kids;” roads and water infrastructure concerns; and education.
Cox is currently the only announced Republican candidate for governor.
Provo businessman Jeff Burningham and Salt Lake Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton are exploring running for governor, but have not formally announced their candidacy.
Former Gov. Jon Huntsman, who resigned as governor in 2009 after being reelected in 2008 when he was appointed ambassador to China by President Barack Obama, has been rumored to be interested in returning from Russia, where he is currently serving as ambassador, to run for governor.
Former Speaker of the House Greg Hughes had also been mentioned in media as a possible Republcian candidate for governor.
Cox said he plans on using both the convention and signature gathering routes to get his name on the ballot for governor.
“I really support the caucus and convention process,” he said. “As lieutenant governor it is my obligation to defend the state’s election procedures, which includes SB 54, [the Senate bill that created the dual path to the ballot for candidates] which is state law regardless of how I feel.”