How to Campaign While Trying to Do Your Job

It is the natural conundrum of sitting officeholders: You have the power of incumbency, fundraising and name I.D.

But you also have to take time off from your duties – as governor, mayor, U.S. House and Senate members – to run for re-election.

Thus neglecting your duties in some form in order to continue your duties for your next term.

A balancing act, to be sure.

One that’s reflected this week in the public schedule of GOP Gov. Gary Herbert and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.

Herbert is in his Capitol Hill office little this week, as he campaigns with an eye toward the June 28 closed Republican Party primary where he faces challenger Jonathan Johnson.

The weekly schedule given out to media reporters shows this for Herbert:

  • Monday, no public events planned – perhaps Herbert is spending the day closeted with the campaign officials, or conducting fundraising itself or shooting radio and TV commercials.
  • Tuesday, campaign events all day in Cache County.
  • Wednesday, a National Farm Bureau convention in Little America, the rest of the day campaigning in Central Utah.
  • Thursday, campaigning in Garfield, Millard and Beaver counties.

With the primary just 12 days away, this is probably Herbert’s last swing through rural Utah.

  • Friday, in Wasatch County for a meeting with local school boards, no doubt some campaigning after that.

In the governor’s campaign mistake that just keeps on giving to Johnson’s campaign, Herbert was recorded several weeks ago in a fundraising meeting with lobbyists in the exclusive Alta Club, saying he was going all out in campaigning and fundraising through June.

You hear Herbert saying that the state would basically be run during primary campaign season by Cox and Herbert’s chief of staff, with Herbert adding he is “Available Jones” – an old cartoon character who was available all the time to work at odd jobs.

Utah top elected officials don’t have any set work schedule, nor any set number of vacation days.

Herbert has repeatedly said – and it’s likely true – that the governor is never really off the job – working long hours each week and often on the weekends as well – giving speeches, attending this or that event, and general representing the state across the country, even internationally.

While no one is really criticizing Herbert for any lack of work ethic, perhaps that cannot be said of Congress.

U.S. House and Senate members also don’t have set vacation schedules. And in election years, like 2016, where all 435 House members are up for election as is a third of the 100-member Senate, federal lawmakers try to get out of D.C. in late August – to have September and October to campaign for re-election in their home districts and states.

In recent years, Congress has officially been out of session more days than in recent times – with any number of critics saying they are not really earning their salaries.

Challengers to top officials have their own work-relate problems.

It’s often the case they have to take extended unpaid leaves from their employers – unless they have understanding bosses, like Johnson’s Overstock.com founder and CEO Patrick Byrne.

Byrne, it’s reported, is still paying Johnson’s chairman of the board salary while Johnson is campaigning full time.

In addition, Byrne had donated $850,000 to Johnson’s campaign – something that Herbert (who has no great personal wealth) is perhaps jealous of.

One reason Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber, gave for dropping out of his state House race this spring was that as an attorney he couldn’t afford to take the time away from his law practice to run a tough primary campaign – and then a contested general election – as well.

Herbert’s not complaining about his pay – a gross salary of $153,831. For that includes free living at the Governor’s Mansion, free transportation much of the time, a fine healthcare, a generous retirement, and a lot of other perks.

Still, if you are hoping to run into Herbert in the Capitol over the next two weeks – well – you probably have a much better chances of catching him in person on the stump.

Herbert’s public campaign appearances are listed on his Facebook campaign homepage.

Johnson’s campaign event page is here.