SALT LAKE CITY — Two friends of Lt. Governor Spencer Cox said Tuesday they’ve started a political action committee and are collecting online pledges for campaign donations should Cox decide to run for governor in 2020.
The Utah 2020 PAC, which quietly formed a year ago, has since set up a website and started collecting email addresses of Cox supporters, who receive updates about his public speaking appearances.
Cox, a Republican, has acknowledged he’s considering a campaign for governor of the largely conservative state.
Utah 2020’s organizers, Spencer Hall and Owen Fuller, said that they’re trying to convince Cox he’ll have backing if he decides to run, though they both say it’s too early for him to make a decision.
“We’re leaning towards it now but a lot can change in a year or two,” Cox said Tuesday. “I still feel like it’s way too early.”
Cox, a farmer and lawyer from Fairview, said he’s flattered by the support his friends are offering but said it’s “just one of many, many points of interest that will help influence that decision.”
Cox has served as Utah’s second-in-command since 2013. He was a freshman state legislator and telecommunications executive when Gov. Gary Herbert named him lieutenant governor, replacing Greg Bell, who resigned to work in the private sector.
If he runs, Cox is expected to join a field of potential GOP candidates that could include Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and House Speaker Greg Hughes.
He drew national headlines in 2016 for an emotional speech he gave reacting to the Orlando nightclub massacre that left 49 people dead. He apologized for how he treated kids growing up in his small hometown who he now realizes were gay.
Both Fuller and Hall argue Cox is a more compassionate, less divisive candidate they want to see in politics.
Cox has carved out a moderate reputation and hasn’t shied away from criticizing members of his own party, including President Donald Trump.
So far, Utah 2020’s most recent campaign filings show only about $3,000 in donations — all from Fuller.
Cox’s most recent campaign finance reports show he has about $5,800 in his campaign account.
Reyes, who is not up for re-election until 2020, closed out 2017 with nearly $10,000 in his campaign account and preliminary 2018 reports show he’s already collected $77,500 this year.
His longtime campaign consultant Alan Crooks said Tuesday that Reyes has been raising money at events to support his 2020 re-election, but he said Reyes has been approached by people who’ve asked him to consider running for governor.
House Speaker Greg Hughes, who is not running for re-election this year, has said he’s still interested in public office. He closed out 2017 with nearly $72,000 in his campaign account and separate PAC. Preliminary campaign finance reports for 2018 show he’s added at least $27,000. Hughes did not return a phone call or text message seeking comment.