Speculation Building that Derek Miller will Replace Greg Bell

A number of Utah Capitol insiders say it is growing more and more likely that Gov. Gary Herbert will select his Chief of Staff Derek Miller as his new Lt. Governor.

While it may be nothing more than speculation on their part, a number of hill staffers and prominent Republicans tell Utah Policy (on condition of anonymity) that Miller is the odds-on pick to replace Bell.

Other names that have been floated in the week since Bell announced he was stepping down for financial reasons include Kristen Cox, who is currently Executive Director for the Office of Management and Budget, House Speaker Becky Lockhart and former State Senator Dan Liljenquist.

Utah Policy’s “Political Insider” panel was split on who would be Bell’s replacement, with 18% selecting Cox and 12% picking Miller.

According to an internal briefing paper obtained by Utah Policy, the staff within the Governor’s office specifically warned staffers against speaking to the media “on or off the record” and further cautioned:

“Realize even casual conversations may be misniterpreted; convey your intention to honor the requested confidentiality necessary to safeguard the LG’s privacy and the Governor’s need to make the optional decision for the State; resist the urge to gossip.”

The same internal paper pegged the timeframe¬†for naming Bell’s replacement on either September 26 or October 1.

A number of Utah politicos say Herbert’s selection will give an early signal whether he’s planning to run for another term in 2016. The possible selection of Miller, who has spent his career working for government instead of in the political arena, has many scratching their heads.

Many suggest Miller’s loyalty to Herbert would play a big part in his possible selection. The thought process being Miller would not have his eye on a higher elected office, namely the Governor’s chair, and would not be trying to set himself up for a run in 2016.

Also, in Miller, Herbert is not selecting a potential successor should he decide against running in 2016. If he selects someone like, for instance, Josh Romney, it would put pressure on other potential 2016 gubernatorial candidates (for instance, Becky Lockhart) to start positioning themselves now.

Others speculate Miller’s selection allows Herbert to put himself above internal GOP politics by picking someone outside of the traditional GOP power structure.

When asked for comment, Miller declined to speak to Utah Policy about this story.