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Utah GOP Primary 2020: So Much Future, So Much At Stake

Utah GOP Primary 2020: So Much Future, So Much At Stake

by Clint Betts

. 5 min read

On June 30th, Utah’s primary election to determine which Republican will beat Democratic nominee Chris Peterson in November will come to an end. We’re told the future of Utah is at stake. This election is so crucial liberals are becoming Republicans, which they promise is more than just a fun way to piss off Greg Hughes.

You know the candidates at this point. With ballots on your kitchen table, no question you’re spending every waking moment paralyzed with fear and anxiety. You can’t afford to get Decision2020 wrong.

So much future, so much at stake.

As you agonize over your vote, I want you to remember LeBron James and the decision he made to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and take his talents to South Beach. Like you, LeBron James had an important decision to make. Unlike you, LeBron James is good at basketball and people cared about his decision. No one cares about you or what you decide, which is the end of this analogy.

All four of the remaining Republican candidates for governor have strengths that must be considered:

  • Spencer Cox is the only candidate to vote against Trump for president in 2016.
  • Jon Huntsman is a COVID-19 super spreader.
  • Greg Hughes doesn’t give a shit about this column.
  • Thomas Wright could easily beat Mike Lee in 2022.

Coming down the homestretch, pollsters who never seem to be right about anything are predicting a photo finish. The last time I listened to pollsters my country got flushed down the toilet like a week-old goldfish.

Let’s forget Greg Hughes is running against three moderate* (*as defined by the media) candidates and could win this thing with just ~32% of the vote. The party’s base agrees with him on basically everything (in particular that the state should’ve never shut down in response to COVID-19) but, like most pollsters, President Hillary Clinton finds the notion of a Hughes victory laughable.

We’re told the race is down to Cox or Huntsman. It’s possible this election will be decided by the aforementioned Ds who’ve recently become Rs, and polls* (*as reported by the media) suggest they’re flocking to Huntsman by a wide margin. I’m professionally obligated to ask a simple question: Why tho?

Some are saying it’s due to the state’s response to COVID-19, but Huntsman has said 80 percent of the state should’ve never shut down and compared the Herbert-Cox administration to Russia and China for implementing a stay home directive (not an order). You know, the standard, run-of-the-mill liberal position on how Utah should respond to COVID-19. That position is only a million miles away from mandating everyone in the state wear masks.

Maybe the scary sounding no-bid contracts (legal and necessary during an emergency like a pandemic) or the constant barrage of negative TestUtah stories have nudged more people into the Huntsman camp. But almost none of the TestUtah stories even mention Cox. In fact, they seem to imply Nomi Health CEO Mark Newman has been in charge of the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and most of the decisions the state has made since the beginning of COVID-19. The incentive to change the narrative and begin talking about who’s actually in charge is obvious, but we’re a little late in the game to unwind a story that’s been hard to believe from the beginning.

Oh, and spoiler: UDOH is (and always has been) in charge of TestUtah. If the lab and tests UDOH uses to facilitate TestUtah didn’t work, UDOH has (and has always had) full authority to shut it down. It’s not useful for you to know this in the middle of a gubernatorial race, but TestUtah isn’t a lab or manufacturer of tests. It's a public-private partnership that directs Utahns to an assessment that tells them whether they need to get tested or not. Overseen, owned, and directed by UDOH, TestUtah and HCA Healthcare (the largest hospital system in the country) also operate some testing sites throughout the state in an effort to expand the state’s capabilities.

As Huntsman himself proved, TestUtah works. In a press release he said he took the assessment on and it told him to self-isolate because the symptoms he was experiencing likely meant he had COVID-19. The assessment would’ve directed him to a testing site or facility in his area—TestUtah operates no sites or facilities in his area. The Salt Lake County Health Department and whatever lab they use botched his first test results. It happens. For some reason it doesn’t get breathless media coverage unless it’s an HCA lab, but botched results happen at all labs whether they have significant political power in Utah or not. Of course, Huntsman had to take another test and that’s when he received what the TestUtah assessment had already told him was most likely: a positive diagnosis.

Again, it’s not useful for you to know all of this in the middle of a gubernatorial race, but it’s clear that none of whatever the hell you just read has anything to do with TestUtah or Spencer Cox.

(On an unrelated note, does anyone know how I can offload $800,000 worth of hydroxychloroquine?)

Let’s get back to the polls that somehow show liberals overwhelmingly support the candidate who’s never wavered in his support of Trump since 2016; who supported Utah Constitutional Amendment 3 banning same-sex marriage and civil unions; who signed a school voucher program that The Heritage Foundation called “revolutionary”; who Utahns rose up via referendum to resoundly defeat and to repeal that same voucher program; who left the same job he’s applying for now to become ambassador to China; who resigned as ambassador to China to run against Barack Obama (the very man who gave him the post); and who opposed same-sex marriage during his brief campaign for president in 2012 while running to the right of Mitt Romney.

Let there be no doubt that Jon Huntsman is a good man, whose view of the world and positions on important issues have likely changed over time. He’s more than qualified to lead this state to become “The Crossroads of the World.” It’s clear why a conservative Republican would be excited about his candidacy. The man is a leader with an unparalleled resume, and would make a damn fine Oval Office occupant or Secretary of State.

He also makes a strong case for being the most consistent conservative in this race, which is why it’s odd polls show liberals overwhelmingly choosing him over the most consistent moderate in the race. It may be that liberals feel betrayed by the moderate, social-media savvy candidate who feels obligated to support the leader of the party holding this primary and in full control of Utah. So betrayed, in fact, they’re willing to vote for a candidate who’s even more conservative and more supportive of the party’s leader. Or it could just be a simple case of pollsters doing what pollsters do: whatever the f*ck they want.

Elections bring out the best and worst of us. They’re vital to keeping our country’s experiment with democracy alive, but they also require us to believe in a politician who will inevitably let us down and make us wonder why we ever wasted our time putting a yard sign on our front lawn. Trusting in a politician is like marrying someone you’ve known for two months—it’s fun at first, but you’ll regret it once they reveal their true selves.

(Design: Joshua Fowlke) (Editor: Rachel Swan)