On the EDge: Not a fan of the governor

OPINION – I’ve never been a fan of Gov. Gary Herbert.

I met Herbert shortly after Jon Huntsman Jr. announced him as his running mate during his first gubernatorial campaign.

Although I liked Huntsman, I never got a warm feel for Herbert even though I covered him through the 2004 campaign.

The two were a very odd couple indeed.

Huntsman was pleasant, outgoing, witty, bright.

Herbert was humorless, unfriendly, unyielding.

But, he served a purpose and that was to shore up support from the more conservative wing of the Republican Party.

Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed.

I had reservations when Huntsman became the U.S. Ambassador to China in 2009 and Herbert stepped up as his replacement.

I remain unimpressed. Huntsman was a savvy governor who understood the needs of Utah and its people. He worked diligently to represent all of the people in the state, had a handle on the state’s economic requirements, and was big on education.

Herbert was just kind of there.

Make no mistake, Huntsman was a politician, but he wasn’t mired in partisan dogma and was always a straight shooter, sometimes choosing the unpopular path.


His politics are self-serving and, quite frankly, hypocritical.

There was the scandal, of course, surrounding approximately $100,000 in campaign donations he was given during his first gubernatorial campaign by three donors who eventually wound up with fat state contracts.

The hypocritical thing?

On Thursday he reacted predictably to the news that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that overturned Utah’s laws banning same-sex marriage. He said he will continue to press the state’s appeal all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.

During his monthly televised news conference on KUED-TV Thursday, Herbert said his personal views on the issue are not rele­vant because as governor, it’s his job to defend the state’s laws. That’s why, he said, he would press on with the appeal.

While it sounded good at the time, it just doesn’t wash. Herbert has history here and people will remember that he had two attorneys general who publicly stated that they would not prosecute Utah’s anti-bigamy/anti-polygamy laws. He did nothing to encourage them to defend the state’s laws and allowed them to turn a blind eye to polygamy across the state.

But, now, he is spending a fortune in taxpayer dollars on a court fight he is sure to lose.

Meanwhile, he continues to work the crowd, looking to feed more dollars into his campaign machine, which he disclosed will ramp up for another run in 2016.

Herbert revealed his plans to seek re-election during a high-powered breakfast meeting Wednesday with some money men, lobbyists, and party loyalists.

The political parsing game, of course, was played out by the governor’s spokeswoman who, after word got out, said Herbert did not announce he was running. The spokeswoman tried to spin it to indicate that what the governor actually said was that he is keeping his options open and leaning toward another bid, according to a report in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Those in attendance disputed the political-speak.

One source who attended the breakfast, according to the Trib, burst into laughter when told of the spokeswoman’s remarks. “They’re not being honest. It was unequivocal,” said another. Multiple sources independently told the Tribune that the governor was explicit that he will run. “His words were: I am running and I need your support,” said an individual who was at the breakfast.

We understand, of course, that these early indicators are geared toward raising money and that the really big announcement will be a well-thought event with lots of cameras, media, and loyal supporters. The run-up to that announcement will be a concentrated effort to clean house and bury some of those skeletons hidden in the closet to tidy up the image.

I worry, though, because Utah made some real progress during the Huntsman administration.

There was an understanding that the state needed to move forward, that venture capital was necessary to promote industry, and that education was the engine that would propel the state forward.

I read statements from Herbert about wanting to take back federal land and bring it under state control; to suppress the rights of same-sex couples who wish only to enter into a legal, moral commitment; to ignore the needs, wants, and desires of those who don’t necessarily belong to the same club as he does.

I haven’t seen a lot of forward movement, which is frustrating, particularly after the Huntsman era when the doors were thrown open to welcome visitors, new business, and those looking for a change of pace, location, and scenery. And, I don’t see Herbert as having built a rapport with Washington, D.C. as Huntsman did.

At this point, the best opponent the Democrats could run against Herbert would be Jim Matheson, who is hanging it up after serving in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2001.

Matheson has the right credentials. He is, on the whole, regarded as a centrist with deep conservative roots when it comes to fiscal and social issues. Most importantly, he has put enough distance between himself and Democratic Party leadership – i.e., former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Obama – to appeal to Utah voters.

Matheson would have enough time between now and then to build up a war chest and campaign team to challenge Herbert if he desires.

I certainly would like to see a scenario like this shake down with the Democrats finally running a viable, experienced candidate for high office.

Perhaps this scenario has already played out in the minds of Herbert’s handlers, leading him to unofficially start his campaign.

There’s still a lot of ground to cover between now and then, to be sure, and it will be interesting to see how it all shakes down.

But, it would be nice to hear another political voice raised, which has not happened here in a long time.

No bad days!

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Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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  • Dana July 1, 2014 at 8:44 am

    Gov. Herbie is a professional panderer. Period.

  • flash-bang July 1, 2014 at 9:00 am

    ..gonna need a whole wheel of cheese to go with this whine….

  • JAR July 1, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Mr. Champion of Left leaning ideological chants;
    I respect your rant opinions to boaster your ego and your base. It’s expected of you.
    Being a Independent Conservative, I do however agree with your recommendation that Mr. Matheson.( I too like the man) throw his hat in the ring. (I wonder if you will get a tasty taco payoff from someone for bringing up the subject?) Huntsman? the man is in love with himself. Kinda reminds me of a Ralph Nater.

    • Chris July 1, 2014 at 6:07 pm

      “boaster”?? Do you mean bolster?

      • Burton July 2, 2014 at 7:04 am

        Uh oh JAR. The typo police are back! Is that really all you have to add is correcting everyone’s spelling and grammar?

  • 33 yr resident July 1, 2014 at 10:27 am

    I Agree.. why waist our tax $ money on fighting same sex marriage? Why not use it to stop polygamy? Wait he can’t it would a effect a relative. When I travel and say I’m from Utah. First thing they say is “Are you mormon? Are you a polygamist? How many live there? ” . I always answer not all utahans are Mormon or polygamist. There are all different nationalities and religions with a family feel that live there. And I’ve noticed we are behind in education. And I have not been impressed with gov Herbert term. I WILL NOT SUPPORT GOVERNOR HERBERT FOR REELECTION.

    • JAR July 1, 2014 at 5:51 pm

      Old time resident:
      What has trapped you to still be in Utah? Why don’t you move back to California and shine Governor Brown toe nails before every annual DO DA parade.

      • Super Grover July 3, 2014 at 7:52 pm

        Transplanted here nearly 20 years ago. To some natives, I now turn there advice around just a bit and offer the following. “If you don’t like it here ANYMORE, why don’t you just leave?”

        • dummy July 4, 2014 at 10:50 am

          most cant or wont leave cuz they dont know how to fit in anywhere else

      • smith July 4, 2014 at 10:54 am

        JAR…your response is ignorant. 33 yr resident has a point. Why will he waist our tax dollars on same sex marriage that IS going to pass (and I am not a supporter) and not take issue with what is going on in the polygamist sect? Why is one so much more important than the other?

  • Imthemobile.guru July 1, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Like him or not, he knows how to lead, manage and execute.

    • Chris July 1, 2014 at 6:08 pm

      and steer lucrative contracts to his friends

  • Burton July 1, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    Haven’t had a Governor in Utah in my lifetime that has backed up what they said they were going to do. They run on conservative Christian values then run right back to the center to try to please everyone and secure their next election. But hey, could be worse. At least he isn’t a Chris Christie yet! Thanks for another interesting insight Ed. And by the way, were you able to make it up to the rainbow family gathering thing?

  • govenerfan July 2, 2014 at 2:56 am

    I like what the governer is doing, I disagree with this article, he is the best we have, I also don’t like same sex marriages either and he has my full support

    • Ron July 2, 2014 at 9:21 am

      You don’t like same sex marriages? Therefore we shouldn’t allow them? Well, I don’t like ATVs. So maybe we shouldn’t allow them either? You really think government exists to support our likes and dislikes?

      • smith July 4, 2014 at 10:56 am

        Thanks Ron, is about time the government starts taking up our likes and dislikes. Please add this to the list…I do not like the fries at wendy’s… I wish the government would make them go back to their old way of making them.

    • Chris July 2, 2014 at 10:06 am

      But what do you think of the “governor”?

  • EL JEFE July 2, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Herbert lost any support from me when he decided that illegals are welcomed here. Utah is known as a “sanctuary state” because he pushed the welcome mat to illegals. In-State college tuition fees for illegals?? My tax dollars pay for that…why?

    • Chris July 2, 2014 at 10:08 am

      Too many LDS church members are illegal aliens for either the church leadership or any Utah politician to talk tough on immigration.

      • huh July 4, 2014 at 10:57 am

        Really? where’s the proof?

  • LOL'd July 2, 2014 at 11:36 am

    He’s an ahole and a poser.

  • Karen July 2, 2014 at 11:51 am

    He has to be careful to pick and choose. Like he picked to give himself a forty thousand dollar raise last year, because he made less than other people in his position. Yet the people at the working level lost pay for the insurance premium rate increase. Even thou they lose more coverage.

  • Herburt July 6, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    Utah is the best run state in Merica!

  • makkie July 24, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Another democrat puke spewing his verbal vomit

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