The primary elections are finally over. In the race to be the Republican Party nominee to become Utah's next governor, current Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox racked up a narrow win over former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr. There were two other candidates in that race: Greg Hughes, the former speaker of the Utah House of Representatives, and Thomas Wright, the former head of the Republican Party, but, alas in the end, hardly anyone paid any attention to them.
For Wright, it doesn't matter much. He was never going to win. However, he most likely became positioned for a future statewide position and the only harm he did himself was choosing current U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop as his running mate. Bishop is a smurf, politically, a strange choice from the start. For Wright, it was a decent entry into the public conversation and most likely burnished his brand.
Hughes is another matter. Even his greatest detractors describe him as a friendly and fun fellow, and one that they can work with. Those same detractors note that Hughes is often at the precipice of—if not fully enveloped in—whatever financial scandal is befalling Utah at any moment. From malfeasant UTA spending and wink-wink hiring practices to whatever it is happening at the inland port development, Hughes is always within the picture frame.
Hughes is an original Trumper. While many Republican politicians lace up next to Trump when it is expedient—to the detriment of other Americans because that's how Trump plays—Hughes is all-aboard with Trump. That means Hughes coddles to Trump's racism, sexism, divisive politics, phony religious practices and avoidance of responsibility, accountability or leadership. Trump wet the bed with his deadly mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, which is one thing, but he also dislikes dogs, is children averse, glows of toxic narcissism and is dismissive to anyone who does not support him in the U.S. or abroad, especially Mexicans. That's Trumperland.
On the ranking scale of awful, Trump's clinginess with porn stars and hookers falls to nearly the bottom of the list somehow, and Hughes never said a word about those proclivities, either. In the end, the only Utahns who seemed to share Hughes' taste in political heroes in large numbers were the folks living in Iron and Washington counties. It only makes sense that the descendants and historical caretakers of the Mountain Meadow Massacre (launched from Cedar City) and of the wishful thinking "Dixie" crowd (in would-be cotton growing St. George) might validate their views in support of Trump and Hughes.
Hughes will surely recover somewhere. But what of Jon Huntsman Jr. and Spencer Cox? Many Utahns engaged in a large and determined effort to convince Democrats and independents to register as Republicans, then cast a vote for Huntsman hoping he'd become the primary winner (the de facto governor in their eyes). But lost in that gambit was that many switchers voted for Cox. Since primary elections are controlled by the fringes, the only hope Hughes had was to emerge from the primary as the Republican candidate, then proceed to inauguration since a centipede could win a statewide election in the fall running as a Republican. A Hughes governorship was a prospect Democrats and independents could not abide.
Had I switched parties, I would have voted for Jon Huntsman Jr. I know him as a smart, honest family man and a decent, service-minded human being. Therefore, I think that, inside, he loathes Donald Trump, the antithesis of everything Huntsman is. I understand why he didn't break with Trump during the primary—he couldn't. But now, he can. And here's the deal, I don't hope he breaks with Trump now, I challenge him to.
So, to Jon: Democrats and independents held their noses, joined the GOP, and they voted for you because they trust you and wanted a voice and representation in Utah affairs. You can pay them back with a simple repudiation of Trump. Don't let their hope be in vain. It is obvious that no Trump is any measure of a Huntsman. Drop him.
And to Spencer: It's said that you were once a Never Trumper. You must do the same thing. If you don't, you're going to have to spend a few more million dollars in advertising explaining how it is that a wide-eyed boy with deep religious and family values coming out of his pores, can stand beside Trump who so devalues everything you say you are. This isn't pig slop—you can't hold your nose and say it's just politics. That pig won't fly. You are either a moral person or you support Trump. And if it's the latter, try another path and send some Cox missionaries to Mar-a-Lago.
As it turns out, the Democrats have a good candidate running in 2020: Christopher Peterson. Like me, Cox and Huntsman, he has deep pioneer roots, so check that code-worded box. He's worked with consumer agencies, he's got government experience bona fides, has a law degree and teaches at the University of Utah. His front-page promises are to expand Medicaid, redistrict legislative boundaries to give voice to all—not voice to party, and he's an advocate of the growing medical-cannabis industry. But there's also this: He's not a Trumper. His values and virtues are real.
Time to put up or shut up, Utah. There's no policy that equates to the pain that this country is going through because no one—except Democrats and Mitt Romney—has the guts to do it, and that is: Look the elephant in the eye and spit in it. Utah doesn't need Trump. Trump needs Utah. If you're going to give us up, then please, Cox and Huntsman, give us up for more than a biblical harlot's wet kiss.
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