There’s not much of a political imperative for Herbert to hew to the political center. That’s because Utah is one of the nation’s most Republican states, with an overwhelmingly Republican legislature and almost no chance these days of being beaten by a Democratic challenger. Yet Herbert — the current chairman of the bipartisan National Governors Association — has regularly taken a moderate course.
Early in his tenure, Herbert signed an immigration bill that allowed undocumented workers to stay in the state if they paid a fine and that allowed state residents to sponsor immigrants. He has opposed social conservatives in vetoing a measure that would have allowed school districts to substitute abstinence-only instruction for sex education. Herbert has also spearheaded the crafting of an alternative to Medicaid expansion that would be acceptable to moderate Republicans.
But the biggest example of bipartisan lawmaking under Herbert was the “grand compromise” he struck on LGBT rights. The measure enshrined anti-discrimination protection for gays and lesbians while also preserving religious freedoms.
“Members from both parties were instrumental in passing the legislation,” said Morgan Lyon Cotti, the state and local program manager at the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics.
Upon signing the bill, Herbert said, “I have no doubt the eyes of the nation are upon us. We can do difficult things because we are determined to work together, one with another, as opposed to working against one another.”
This approach appears to be getting good results: An April 2015 Utah Policy poll had him with a 71 percent approval rating overall, and 85 percent among Republicans.