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Democrat Peterson Ready To Challenge Cox For Governor

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — As Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox claimed victory Monday in Utah’s Republican gubernatorial primary over Jon Huntsman, Cox’s Democratic challenger said he was poised to offer an appealing alternative to the status quo in November’s general election.

“With the serious economic recession we’re facing, unprecedented unemployment, arguably a mismanaged public health crisis, ongoing challenges funding our public schools—I think we have a real case to make that it’s time for change,” said Chris Peterson.

Peterson, a professor of business law at the University of Utah with federal government experience fighting predatory lending and protecting consumers, was already laying out his case for the office Monday evening.

“We need to make sure we’re dealing with our air pollution problem, we need to make sure that people are getting access to the affordable health care they need,” he said.

The last Democrat to be elected governor, Scott M. Matheson, left office more than 35 years ago, but University of Utah associate professor of political science Tim Chambless said he sees a potential path for Peterson in 2020.

Chambless noted that Cox only secured 36 percent of the vote in the Republican primary.

“That means 64 percent of those who voted on June 30 did not vote for him,” Chambless said. “He knows that they voted for Greg Hughes or Thomas Wright — maybe the right-wing part of the party — or for his rival, Jon Huntsman, so he’s going to have to go out and win those Republican votes back.”

With concerns currently weighing heavy over a variety of issues from the pandemic to racism and social justice, Chambless said it’s not a bad time to be considered an outsider to the current political structure.

“If someone is perceived as being the incumbent — the lieutenant governor is the incumbent — and you perceive that the job is not being done, then voters may very well vote for the change agent, which is the person out of power.”

Cox did not speak publicly Monday after the Associated Press called the race and Huntsman conceded.

He instead issued an initial statement.

“Senator (Deidre) Henderson and I are humbled by the vote of confidence from the people of Utah in selecting us as the Republican nominees for governor and lieutenant governor,” Cox said in the statement. “As farm kids from Sanpete County, Abby and I never dreamed of having this opportunity. If elected in November, we will take our rural values of hard work, honesty and responsibility to the Governor’s office each day.”

Peterson, meanwhile, maintained there was no better time to consider an alternative.

“We’re going to keep fighting, we’re going to keep campaigning, we’re going to try to let everybody know that they have a choice here in this state,” Peterson said. “We’ve had Republican governors for a long time, but there’s no reason that we can’t consider a change.”

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