Bob Bernick’s notebook: Come out, come out wherever you are

Bernick Mug 01

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, winner of the GOP primary for governor this year, is apparently going into a political turtle shell.

He says he will only participate in “a” debate before the November election with Democrat Chris Peterson. That means one debate only — probably the namby-pamby Utah Debate Commission affair.

Cox won’t tell The Salt Lake Tribune whether he supports mandated mask-wearing to battle the coronavirus — a major issue these days.

He wouldn’t even respond to the Salt Lake Rotary Club’s invitation to debate Peterson, reports say.

Oh, you can still see Cox around. I found a Facebook post where Cox, wearing a mask, was passing out big chunks of meat to needy folks.

That’s great.

Cox is a nice guy and probably really likes passing out big chunks of free meat.

But it would be nice if the guy who most likely will be our next governor for four years — and this being Republican Utah, Cox can probably win eight or even 12 years as being governor — would engage with his Democratic opponent, the press and even the public.

You can read about Cox on his campaign website:

The website starts with a large picture of Cox with his wife on their Sanpete County farm. (Yeah, we do know he has a family farm.)

You can see Gov. Gary Herbert endorses him. (We knew that, also.)

And you can see why Cox is running for governor. (There has been little doubt of that ever since Herbert picked him from the Utah House to be his LG several years ago.)

You can see how he wants to “rebuild our economy,” “unleashing education,” “restoring rural Utah,” and “transforming politics.”

Every governor since Brigham Young has wanted to build up rural Utah. Few have had much success with it, including Herbert, who has been in office 11 years.

Utah still ranks last in the nation in per-student spending (except on the odd years with we are second-last to Idaho.) It used to be we could count on Mississippi being the worst per-student in spending, but we can’t even beat them anymore.

And while our high school graduation rates are doing better, and our college-level test scores are stabilized some, so far the Legislature/governor’s efforts at really big K-12 spending hasn’t done a whole lot for us — still really big student classroom sizes, for example. (USAToday ranks Utah’s schools 30th in the nation overall.)

Under “transform politics” Cox doesn’t speak at all about real campaign reform — like term or campaign donation limits, increase voter participation and such.

He wants to “Restore Utah’s Values of Civility and Service.” That’s fine, but little has been done on real political reform in Utah in recent years, although I do commend the Legislature making vote by mail easier, and the main way the 2020 primary election was conducted in Utah.

Herbert/Cox has defended SB54 in the past, but Cox agreed that change should be made to the law during the GOP primary campaign.

In response to’s specific questions on the dual-pathway law for candidates, Cox said SB54 should be put before voters and let them decide once and for all.

That’s fine, but only the Legislature can put a question on the ballot, or it can be done through a citizen initiative petition (tried by Count My Vote, but that effort failed in 2018.)

Currying GOP right-wing votes, Cox said candidates should have to get voter signatures in all 29 counties, making SB54’s 28,000 signatures for a statewide race even more difficult to obtain.

If Cox would engage with Peterson, or the press, or the public-at-large in his campaign, then we all could more clearly see what Cox plans for Utah over the next few years — or even the next decade.

Let’s hope the turtle comes out of his shell soon.