Gov. Gary Herbert (R)
Elected: Assumed office Aug. 2009, 1st term.
Born: May 7, 1947, American Fork .
Education: Attended Brigham Young U..
Family: Married (Jeanette); 6 children.
Military career: UT National Guard, 1970-76.
Elected office: UT Cnty. Commission, 1990-2004; UT lt. gov, 2005-09.
Professional Career: Founder, Herbert & Associates Realtors; Owner, The Kids Connection
Republican Gary Herbert became Utah’s new governor on August 11, 2009. Herbert assumed office following the resignation of Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who became U.S. ambassador to China in the Obama administration.
|Jon Huntsman (R)||734,049||(78%)|
|Bob Springmeyer (D)||186,503||(20%)|
|Dell Schanze (Lib)||24,820||(3%)|
|Jon Huntsman (R)||Unopposed|
Herbert was born in American Fork, Utah, where his father owned a construction company. He studied engineering and accounting at Brigham Young University, but left school before graduating and established a real estate firm, Herbert and Associates Realtors. He ran for the Orem City Council in 1989, losing the election by just 32 votes. The next year, he was elected to the Utah County Commission and served as its chairman for 13 years. During his tenure, Utah County had one of the state’s lowest tax rates. He entered the 1994 race to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Orton in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District but dropped out after struggling to raise money. Orton went on to win re-election.
In 2003, Herbert left the Utah County Commission to run for governor. The field for the 2004 Republican primary was crowded with better known politicians such as former U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen, former Utah House Speaker Nolan Karras and Huntsman, the son of the wealthiest man in Utah, industrialist Jon Huntsman. Herbert cast himself as a “David” in a field of political “Goliaths,” and stressed his rural roots and ties to local government. Unable to generate enough support for his candidacy, Herbert accepted Huntsman’s invitation to join his ticket as the nominee for lieutenant governor. At the time, Huntsman was perceived as lacking credibility in state politics and rural affairs, two areas where Herbert was solid. The ticket won with 58% of the vote.
As lieutenant governor, Herbert made it clear that he would not be content performing the ceremonial duties often associated with the office. Under Utah’s Constitution, the lieutenant governor’s sole official duty is overseeing the state Elections Office, but Huntsman expanded Herbert’s responsibilities to include overseeing the state’s public lands policies, transportation plans and homeland security operations. That gave Herbert more influence than his predecessors. He pushed for the creation of a Public Lands Policy Coordination Office to help manage the state’s role in land management issues. He also oversaw the state Elections Office’s transition from paper ballots to electronic voting and the transfer of candidate and lobbyist disclosure forms from paper to the Internet.
In 2008, Huntsman won a second term as governor, but then was courted by Obama to be the ambassador to China, a major diplomatic role at a time of unease in the West with the giant Asian economic powerhouse. When Huntsman announced his resignation, the conservative faction of Utah’s Republican Party expressed excitement over Herbert, who is more conservative than Huntsman. But before taking office, Herbert said that he agreed with Huntsman on most issues and would not seek major policy changes. His decision to follow the path blazed by the popular Huntsman may partially be motivated by the fact that he will face a special election in 2010, and his re-election is not a foregone conclusion. A poll conducted in May 2009 showed that only 42% of Utahans could identify Herbert as the state’s lieutenant governor. Herbert may face competition in the 2010 Republican primary, and several potential challengers were eyeing the contest in June 2009.