Gov. Cox facing backlash after speech at the 2024 GOP state convention

May 2, 2024, 10:04 PM

Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox speaks during the Utah Republican Party state nominating convention at the...

Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox speaks during the Utah Republican Party state nominating convention at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday. (Marielle Scott, Deseret News)

(Marielle Scott, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Spencer Cox is facing backlash after his speech at the 2024 Utah GOP state convention stirred up a divide among the Republican party.

When Cox began his speech, he was met with booing and other outbursts from delegates who seemed to find his actions this term unsatisfactory.

After receiving this reaction from the audience, Cox mentioned other officials in GOP history that were jeered, some eventually winning in primary elections.

Cox listed his works this term and said he was proud of what he did during the recent legislative season.

That list included signing legislation regarding the largest tax-cut in Utah history, constitutional carrypro-life legislation, and school choice.

“Maybe you hate that I sent troops to the border and have support from Gov. Abbott from Texas. Maybe you hate the 60 lawsuits that we’ve filed against President Biden administration. Maybe you hate that we stopped DEI and ESG and CRT,” Cox said.

He said the real issue at hand was hate.

“Maybe you just hate that I don’t hate enough,” Cox said.

As the governor continued, so did booing from attendees.

“What I love about real Utah Republicans is that you are architects, not arsonists. You love our state. You care about our neighbors. We disagree passionately but treat each other with respect. That is the true spirit of the Republican Party that I know and that I love,” Cox said near the end of his speech.

GOP counties respond

On Thursday, the Iron County Republican Party Executive Committee sent a letter calling on Cox to “Rescind divisive, false, and inflammatory statements.”

In the letter, members of this committee shared concern that negative approaches may increase campaign shifts and lead to more disrespect among delegates.

Incumbent Republicans forced into primaries in drawn-out GOP state convention

While we do not approve of booing as an effective form of communication with our representatives, Spencer Cox’s response was no better, and as the governor, and as a Republican leader, Republican voters expect better leadership,” the letter stated.

The committee also said that if the speech were more positive and unifying, voting outcomes may have been different, noting the 29% of votes Cox received.

“We call upon Governor Cox to disagree better, to rescind his divisive, false, and inflammatory remarks, and to apologize to the Utah Republican Party organization, the Republican voters of Utah, and the duly elected volunteer State Delegates who represent them on the local level,” the letter said.

On Monday, the Salt Lake County Republican Party posted a message on Facebook following the GOP state convention, calling his comments “disheartening.”

They end the letter congratulating Phil Lyman, who received 67.54% of votes in the final round.

In regards to that event, Yemi Arunsi, Davis County GOP Chair, posted a letter to Facebook crediting elected Delegates’ hard volunteer work and dedicated time to fulfill their civil duty. 

“Despite efforts to deem them inconsequential, they remain integral to a system that fosters community engagement, meaningful dialogue, and above all, opportunity,” Arunsi said.

Arunsi credits the caucus/convention format as beneficial.

“I firmly believe any lack of decorum on display last weekend was the exception, not the rule. While the system may not be perfect, it is upheld by citizens who are dedicated to improving the political landscape — and they deserve our appreciation.”

KSL reports that Cox received 28.86% of votes after the first round of voting and 32.46% after the final round during the GOP state convention.

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Gov. Cox facing backlash after speech at the 2024 GOP state convention