Poll: Lt. Governor Candidates Won’t Help Much Come Election Time

Utah State Capitol 23Whatever good the lieutenant governor picks for Gary Herbert and Jonathan Johnson may have done for their tickets in the state GOP convention, that good is likely over with, a new UtahPolicy poll finds.

For both Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and Robyn Bagley are not well known by the Utah electorate, and probably won’t be bringing many votes to their top dogs come the June 28 GOP primary election, finds pollster Dan Jones & Associates in a new survey for UtahPolicy, an online political newsletter.

Cox was a freshman GOP House member when Herbert tagged him to be his lieutenant governor appointment after the then-LG resigned two years ago to pursue work in the private sector.

Johnson picked Bagley several weeks before the April state GOP convention in a clear effort to shore up his archconservative credentials with the 4,000 delegates.

Bagley is a leader in the charter school/voucher movement, and would give female Republicans a balance on the ticket.

Cox was a local government leader from central Utah before winning his House seat back in 2012.

Jones asked respondents if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Cox and Bagley; or if they had heard of the LG candidates, but had no opinion; or if they had never even heard of them; or if they just didn’t know.


Utah’s leading pollster found that 26 percent of Utahns had a favorable opinion of Cox, 9 percent an unfavorable opinion, 14 percent had heard of him, but had no opinion, and 4 percent didn’t know.

But nearly half of all Utahns, (47 percent) have never even heard of Cox – even though he’s been Utah’s LG for some time.

Bagley is even more of an unknown, Jones found:

  • 5 percent have a favorable opinion of her.
  • 4 percent an unfavorable opinion.
  • 10 percent said they’ve heard of Bagley, but had no opinion.
  • 6 percent didn’t know.
  • And 74 percent – three-fourths of all Utahns – stated that they have never heard of her.

Like the office of vice president of the United States, the constitutional position of lieutenant governor is kind of a Person-In-Waiting – waiting for when the leader doesn’t run again, and you may get your chance or, worse, to step up if something happens to the leader.

But in recent times in Utah, the LG post has really paid off.

Back in 2002 then-LG Olene Walker got to be the first female governor of Utah when then-Gov. Mike Leavitt resigned to go into the President George W. Bush administration.

And in 2009 then-LG Gary Herbert stepped up to the top job when then-Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. resigned to become China ambassador in the President Barack Obama administration.

The difference being, Walker, a moderate, was knocked out of office in the 2004 GOP state convention, finishing fifth in a crowded field of would-be conservatives.

Herbert won a special election in 2010 to finish out the final two years of Huntsman’s term and then won a full term for himself in 2012. He now seeks his third election to the top post.

The general feeling is one picks a Lt. Governor running mate to help him or her at the state party convention.

Maybe the LG pick can help a bit in the primary – if there is one. But that’s about it.

No gubernatorial candidate wants to be overshadowed by his LG pick. You have to be the top dog in the race.

Johnson likely picked Bagley, a charter school president, to balance the ticket gender-wise (he already knew Herbert’s running mate was male).

And Johnson was clearly looking for someone to the right of the political spectrum, someone to help with the traditionally more conservative state delegates.

Herbert, from Utah and Salt Lake counties, wanted someone to help him in the rural part of the state – which historically has more of an impact in the state convention than among primary and general election voters.

Leavitt was from Cedar City, and by picking Walker, a well-known politician in Salt Lake City, he was helping balance his ticket with gender and geography.

In 2004, Huntsman was a name well-known across the state. But he needed help in conservative Utah County. Then a county commissioner, Herbert filled that role.

Also in 2004, former House Speaker Nolan Karras may well have gotten out of the crowded GOP state convention by picking former GOP congresswoman Enid Greene as his LG – who despite her problems with the general public over her previous high-visibility scandal, was still respected and liked among delegates and hard-core Utah Republicans. Greene was also wealthy, and she contributed financially to the Karras primary race.

Johnson finished first in this year’s GOP convention – although due to the strong anti-SB54 sentiment among delegates it’s not clear how much Bagley helped Johnson that convention day.

Cox has been working hard over the last few months with rural Utah Republicans – kind of a hometown boy making good in the big city.

And it appears that Cox has a higher office in mind someday.

Still, Cox is not well known even among Utah Republicans.

Jones finds:

  • 30 percent of Republicans have a favorable opinion of Cox; 5 percent have an unfavorable opinion (maybe the pro-Johnson folks); 14 percent said they recognize his name, but have no opinion of him; 4 percent didn’t know; and 46 percent of Utah Republicans say they have never even heard of Cox.

Democrats and political independents hover around those same numbers, as well.

Bagley is just plain unknown to Republicans, Democrats, and independents across the board, Jones finds – around three-fourths of Utahns of all political persuasions don’t know who she is.

Bagley is not helping out on the gender front, either: 77 percent of women don’t know who she is, 72 percent of men don’t recognize her name.

Jones polled 588 adults from May 2-10. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.04 percent.