Spencer Cox is Lt. Governor of the State of Utah and a graduate of Washington and Lee University School of Law.
Why did you decide to attend Washington and Lee University School of Law when you had been accepted to Harvard? Are there any professors from your time in law school that continue to influence your thinking today?
The truth is, Abby and I had been praying about it, and we had been struggling to know which decision to make. In fact, I hadn’t even been accepted into Washington and Lee yet. Abby and I were choosing between Harvard and BYU at the time.
I went to a Sunday School class that day, and I actually felt like I received an answer in prayer. I didn’t even understand it at the time, but I knew I would not be attending Harvard. My dad had meetings in DC later that week, and Abby and I visited Washington and Lee during our spare time. Abby and I fell in love with the campus and knew that’s where I needed to be.
Actually, I feel some of my professors at Utah State during my undergraduate were much more influential than professors during my law school experience. Bill Furlong is one who took a chance on me, and I had an opportunity to travel with him and a group of other students to Costa Rica to study the presidential election there. Several of my political science professors at USU also continue to influence me.
You clerked for Ted Stewart and he has come up on rumored lists for the Supreme Court twice during the presidency of Donald Trump. Would you illustrate with an example something about Stewart’s approach to the law that impresses you?
I was always impressed by his thoroughness. He required we read every single document submitted and that we understood every argument before a ruling was made. Beyond that, he consistently displayed kindness and empathy for people he was seeing on their worst days.
How were you approached to become the Lt. Governor and what factors played into your decision to accept?
This is a fun article from the Deseret News that covers this well. Have a read!
Many Utahns would like to see you run for governor in 2020. What do you consider to be the main pros and cons of a decision to run?
This is always a funny question to answer. Doesn’t 2020 seem so far away?!
Everyone wants to BE governor, but not everyone wants to DO governor. I feel, more than anyone else in the state, I understand what it takes to do governor. Governor Herbert is extremely hardworking – I have trouble keeping up with him sometimes – and I’ve seen firsthand the demands on him and his family.
Having run a telecommunications company in the private sector for 10 years and having served as city councilman, mayor, county commissioner, legislator, and lieutenant governor, I have unique insight into the power our state has to solve problems and set an example for the rest the nation.
The people of Utah are incredible, and working on their behalf is incredible.
What is the difference between a public servant and a career politician? Which do you consider yourself and how do you maintain awareness about possibly drifting into the other category?
This is actually something I think about regularly and something my wife and I discuss all the time. The difference is motivation. If you are doing this job because you feel like you can make a difference, you’re a true public servant. But if you’re doing it because you like the attention and accolades, then you’ve lost your way.
Staying in Fairview was a very important decision for us — and between that lifestyle choice and my family, they are the two most important things in my life that keep me grounded. They remind me who I am. In Fairview, I’m not the Lieutenant Governor—I’m that kid who grew up down the street—and I’m constantly reminded that title and power really doesn’t matter in the end, but the good you do for the world does.
How does your faith influence your approach to decision-making
both in and outside politics?
My faith is central to who I am as a human being, and is part of the fabric of me. It impacts my decisions both inside and outside of politics. I believe all individuals are children of God and we should treat them with respect. Faith provides me empathy for those with whom I disagree, and patience when I struggle.
You have been an effective pioneer use of social media in politics. How does your use of social media now compare to when you first took office?
When I first took office, social media didn’t really exist. In 2004 when I was a member of our Fairview City Council, social media began to grow.
I really became involved in Facebook during the Woodhollow Fire as a county commissioner in 2012. My Facebook account became the main mechanism for the county to communicate what was happening with the fires, and to share messages with my community.
Since then, I have become much more interested in Twitter and less interested in Facebook — Facebook has become much more toxic and tribal in nature.
What is the duty of politicians to stand up for moral convictions even if it costs them popularity—or their offices? Have you received pushback from Utah politicians about your frank comments regarding the president’s morality?
I don’t like this job enough to not be true to myself. If I can’t be me and be true to my convictions, I won’t be here. The key is to have a better life outside of politics instead of inside politics. I choose to be myself, even after considering the potential consequences.
Yes, I have received pushback concerning some of my comments about the president.
But at the same time, people are yearning for honesty and realness and they are tired of talking about politicians who only say what they think we want to hear.
Jazz fans have been through quite the range of emotions the past year. What do you envision for the team in the next several years—and how do you feel knowing the Jazz are 1-0 when you are acting Utah Governor?
— Spencer Cox (@SpencerJCox) January 27, 2018
It’s been an up and down year! I’m nervous about the team right now, but convinced the foundation is here for several title runs in years to come.
Also, I’m proud of our record with Joe Ingles as my Lieutenant Governor ( #1hourGov), and I will do whatever it takes to help the Jazz succeed.
If you took a year off to write a book about any subject, what would you write about and why?
The book I’d write would be close to “Them,” by Ben Sasse. For the past five years I’ve been speaking about the dangers of political tribalism and the divide that is occurring in our country right now. Ben Sasse has done a perfect job of putting all the pieces together and explaining how and why this is happening.
Since that book has already been written, I would write a behind-the-scenes look at the Utah Jazz.