Deciding to run for governor was one of the hardest decisions my family has ever made. Contrary to what many people think, this is not something we had ever planned — or really wanted — to do. In fact, becoming Lt. Governor was a quirk of fate (I still have never figured out why the Governor picked a no-name, freshman representative from a small town in Sanpete County). But being so close to the Herberts over the past 6 years made the thought of serving as Governor even heavier. The position is all consuming and the Governor and First Lady have sacrificed more than people will ever truly know or understand.
And so, when Governor Herbert asked us to consider running for his position we agonized. And we prayed. And we did all the things families do when making difficult life decisions. Through it all, one thought, one idea, one theme became clear in our minds. We couldn’t stomach politics as usual. If we ran, it would have to be different.
But first, I have to tell you about our logo.
Choosing a campaign logo is far harder than you might expect. We actually had two graphic designers sharing dozens of ideas, concepts and designs. All of them were perfectly fine campaign logos with colors you would expect to see at any convention or rally. But none of them felt right. We wanted something that would MEAN something. We wanted it to be a reflection of us. So we shared more about who we were and the things that were important to us. We started with the farm…and of course…our John Deere tractor…
It’s also no secret that I am a HUGE fan of the Utah Jazz. And it’s not just me. The Jazz bring all of Utah together like nothing else. Even families. I love to remember the time that I came home from a city council meeting and seeing my wife and four little kids in their Jazz jerseys jumping up and down during the 4th quarter of a tight game. Oh and those City jerseys…
I have to apologize for the next part. Those of us who have lived our entire lives in rural Utah often feel overlooked or forgotten. And we compensate for that by talking about our home towns and counties. A lot. So if you ever heard me speak, you know that I am from Sanpete County. That I live in Fairview and am raising my kids on the same farm my great-great-great grandfather settled. And Sanpete is located right in the middle (ok, “heart”) of our great state…
Finally (and I promise we are getting back to the purpose of this post), since I commute 200 miles round-trip to the Capitol everyday, I have lots of time to listen to audio books. A few books have been truly impactful — and significantly influenced our decision to serve. The Conservative Heart by Arthur Brooks is one of those books (as are “Love Your Enemies” by the same author and “Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal by Senator Ben Sasse. You absolutely must read them both). In his book, Brooks makes a compelling argument for traditional conservatism and the need for more “heart” in everything we do. It spoke to me, and helped finish our logo…
So, when you add it all up you get this…
But, back to the Conservative Heart. This is what Arthur Brooks wrote in 2015: “What the United States needs is for a unifying, positive, aspirational force to sweep through our national community. American conservatives have a generational opportunity to become precisely this kind of force. We have a shot, if we take it, to help every single American build a better life, and unite our nation in the process.”
Four years later that statement seems almost laughable. Our country has moved further away from a “unifying, positive, aspirational force” than almost ever before. Politics has become increasingly toxic. Instead of being a competition of ideas, campaigns have become a competition to tear down our opponents. Tribalism is dominating social media and cable news. Elected officials and talking heads have discovered that fear and divisiveness are easy ways to get votes and make money. And, unfortunately, it feels like we haven’t yet reached the bottom.
And so, the question became clear, is it possible to run a campaign that — win or lose — would make our state a better place?
I believe that Utah is different. I believe that Utah is special. In Utah we lead the nation in volunteer service and charitable giving. Every year. If it can be done anywhere, it can be done in Utah.
And I am willing to lose trying.
That is why Abby and I decided to make service a central part of our campaign. This is not a gimmick. This is not fluff. No. This IS principle. This IS policy. This IS critical to the very foundation and future of our country.
You see, government was never designed to solve all of our problems. I don’t mean that as a partisan statement. I mean that as a practical fact. We are asking government to do things it was never designed to do, and it is faltering and failing us. Families, communities, neighborhoods, faith-based institutions, volunteer organizations…our society was designed for those groups to solve and save. For more than 240 years great Americans have stepped forward to meet the challenges of a generation. And we can do it again.
As Brooks concludes, “There is a lot to be mad about in America today, but we must never forget that our cause is a joyous one. Conservatives should be optimists who believe in people. We champion hope and opportunity. Fighting for people, helping those who need us, and saving the country — this is, and should be, happy work.”
Over the past few weeks we have visited 105 cities and towns and participated in dozens of service projects. We have seen the very best of Utah and I am more optimistic than ever before. It is time for Utah to show the rest of the country that there is a better way. In this run for Governor, I hope that in addition to competing on our vision for the future, my opponents and I will have a friendly competition to see who can do the most good for Utah. Better yet, let’s find ways during the campaign to serve together. That way, when all the campaign balloons have popped, we can look back — whatever the outcome — and know that it was all worth it. Less talk. More service. Let’s go.
For more information regarding the Lt. Gov.’s campaign for governor, visit votecox.com.