SALT LAKE CITY – As expected, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox will replace outgoing Gov. Gary Herbert as Utah’s chief executive.
Cox won the governor’s seat in Tuesday’s general election by a nearly 2 to 1 vote margin over Democratic challenger Chris Peterson of Salt Lake City.
Cox had garnered 654,505 votes compared to 315,575 for Peterson, who conceded the race shortly after polls closed.
Given the Utah GOP’s huge advantage in registered voters, Cox’ victory was never really in doubt after he defeated three Republican challengers in the party’s primary in June.
But Peterson and running mate Karina Brown of Nibley made the race newsworthy by making a campaign issue of the lieutenant governor’s role in Utah’s troubled response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The Cox campaign strategy was to rest on its laurels after the GOP primary win, but Cox became vulnerable to public criticism as the number of COVID-19 cases, infection rates and fatalities gradually increased in the early fall.
That vulnerability increased in early October when the Utah State Auditor released a report that confirmed some of Peterson’s charges about mismanagement of taxpayer funds during the coronavirus response.
Ultimately, party loyalty outweighed concerns about the pandemic in the minds of Utah voters.
Cox and running mate state Sen. Deidre Henderson of Spanish Fork will assume their new roles as governor and lieutenant governor respectively on Jan. 1, 2021.