Two names are going to dominate Utah politics for the next decade or so - Cox and McAdams.
Lt. Governor Spencer Cox and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams are the brightest political stars in the Republican and Democratic parties right now, and they areonly at the beginning of their careers.
Cox, the surprise pick for Lt. Governor after Greg Bell resigned is young, charasmatic and a formidable political force in the making.
McAdams is the prototype Utah Democrats should be looking to emulate if they want to start winning elections in the future. He does what a Utah Democrat needs to do in order to win big contests - make Republicans and right-leaning independents comfortable pulling the lever (actually, using the touch screen) to cast a ballot for him. It’s the same thing that helped Jim Matheson win time and time again. Republicans trusted him.
In fact, one prominent Republican said to me, when discussing McAdams, “He’s going to be a pain in our ass for years to come.”
Likewise, Cox is going to cause problems for Democrats and fellow Republicans. The most likely scenario is Gov. Herbert deciding to run for one more term in 2016. If he wins, that would give Cox nearly 8 years as Lt. Governor, putting him in prime position to run for the top spot in 2020. Cox would only be 45 years old then.
That would likely thwart any designs on the office held by other Republicans who have been sitting and waiting for Herbert to step aside and give them a chance. Too bad for the Kirk Jowers or Josh Romney’s who have designs on the Governor’s Mansion. They’re gonna have to go through Cox to get there, and that’s not going to be easy.
McAdams would likely be finishing a second term as Salt Lake County Mayor in 2020 - at the ripe old age of 46.
For comparison, Mike Leavitt was just 42 when he became Governor, and Jon Huntsman was 44. Both McAdams and Cox would just be entering the prime of their political careers.
While a McAdams vs. Cox matchup for U.S. Senate or Governor would be an amazing contest, my guess is the two men would end up staying away from each other politically...unless the office is too enticing to pass up.
All of this is speculation, of course. There are family or personal considerations that could take either one of them out of the political arena. But, I really don’t see either one of them being deposed from within their own party. Like it or not, they will probably be the standard bearers for the next decade or more.
Democrats should use McAdams as the foundation to build a party that can expand outside of Salt Lake County. He has that kind of crossover appeal. My father-in-law, who is a conservative Utah County Republican, has remarked on more than one occasion that he would vote for McAdams if he had the chance. He has shown them the blueprint for winning elections. They would do well to heed his tutelage.
Cox is the kind of Republican who could win anywhere. His rural background makes him a formidable opponent in those parts of the state, but he holds an appeal for urban voters as well that should make him popular anywhere from Provo to Ogden.
Get used to seeing these two on ballots for years to come.