On August 5th, 2009, Utah's Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, who will move into the top spot once Jon Huntsman Jr. is confirmed as the new U.S. Ambassador to China, nominated District 22 State Senator and assistant Senate Majority Whip Greg Bell (R-Fruit Heights) to succeed him (Herbert) as Lt. Gov. The selection is noteworthy but not particularly surprising; Bell was on Herbert's short list from the very beginning of the process. Media stories from the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune, the Ogden Standard-Examiner, and KSL Channel 5.
District 57 Rep. Craig Frank posts supportive reaction HERE. The District 61 blog posts the official Utah Republican Party press release HERE. Utah Democrats posted their reaction HERE, but criticize him for his failure to translate ethics reform sentiment into action.
Unlike Herbert, who is a conservative from Utah County, Bell is considered somewhat more moderate, and is from Davis County. Herbert himself didn't want a "clone", recently saying, "I don't want a clone of myself. I don't want another Gary Herbert here. I'd like someone who compliments me, hopefully in the same way I complemented Gov. Huntsman". This gives the Herbert-Bell ticket some degree of both ideological and geographical diversity. Many observers felt that if Herbert had picked someone from Utah County, he would have seriously hindered his own electoral chances in 2010. It is still a mostly-suburban ticket nonetheless, since both Utah and Davis Counties are located along the highly-populated Wasatch Front. KSL news video embedded below:
Bell had emerged as a clear front-runner in recent weeks as Herbert narrowed his list and several top candidates removed themselves from consideration. Herbert and Bell had discussed the position several times, and Herbert finally offered the job to Bell in a phone call Tuesday night. "I'm honored to serve the people of Utah in this full-time capacity. I love this state," said Bell. "I pledge to the people of Utah and to Governor Herbert that I will serve the people of Utah with all my heart." Bell describes himself as conservative in principle and moderate in tone.
But not necessarily conservative enough for Eagle Forum Utah, led by Gayle Ruzicka. Ruzicka had pressured Herbert not to choose Bell due to concerns about Bell's support of benefits for gay and other nontraditional couples. Ruzicka, who warned such legislation was a "slippery slope," said Herbert should have picked someone who shared his conservative values. In response, Bell said those who sought to portray him as supportive of gay marriage distorted his actual position. He said he backed Amendment 3, which banned gay marriages in Utah. "I'm pleased we have that in place, because that essentially ends the debate in the state," he said. "I do not support gay marriage. I do not support a statute that would create domestic partnerships, civil unions or anything like that."
Greg Bell is LDS, and is married with six children. Previously a mayor and city council member in Farmington, he's served in the State Senate since 2002. Full biography HERE.
Under a new Utah constitutional amendment, the Senate must confirm Bell. But GOP Senate leaders have already said that should Herbert pick their colleague, a committee hearing will be scrapped and a vote on Bell will take place at am interim day special confirmation session August 19th. But Bell is expected to participate in Herbert's inauguration ceremony, set for noon August 11th in the Capitol Rotunda. Invitations were sent out on August 4th to the ceremony, which is open to the public.
A look at Senator Bell's legislative record can serve as a reasonable predictor of future political behavior.
UFIRE, one of Utah's strongest and most active immigration reform lobbies, does not consider Bell a stalwart proponent of immigration enforcement. They don't list him in their "select circle", so to speak. In their more detailed 2009 breakdown, they show him in the middle of the pack with a letter grade of "D".
Utah Grass Roots, a conservative small-government lobby whose interests in 2008 included stopping rampant government growth, defense of parental rights, opposing forced health insurance, stemming windfall property tax hikes, and promoting stronger immigration enforcement, rated Bell at 56 percent in 2008 (2009 ratings not yet available). This is an improvement over his career rating of 44 percent. While mediocre in absolute terms, it is pretty good in relative terms, since the highest rated senators, Mark Madsen (R-Tooele) and Howard Stephenson (R-Draper), only got a 74 percent rating. To put this in perspective, the group rated Governor Huntsman only at 38 percent.
According to Greg Bell's VoteSmart Issues Page (which will probably be deleted after the 2010 election), Bell received the following ratings from other special interest groups (only the most recent depicted):
-- 2008 Utah Taxpayer's Association rated him at 87.5
-- 2003 Utah Association of Realtors rated him at 100
-- 2008 Sierra Club rated him at 80. This doesn't make him a "greenie"; previous ratings have fluctuated wildly from 33 to 100.
-- 2008 Utah Association of Public Charter Schools rated him "A".
-- 2008 Utah Education Association (an appendage of the NEA) rated him at 56
-- 2007 Equality Utah (gay lobby) rated him at 50, doubling the previous year's rating.
-- 2005-6 Utah National Federation of Independent Business rated him at 100.
-- 2008 Accountability Utah rated him at -79. This group appears dormant at present.
You can review Bell's key votes on his VoteSmart Voting Record Page. More about his political philosophy is revealed from his 2002 Issue Positions.
Prognosis: Good selection. Eagle Forum opposition will be reassuring to those Huntsman moderates who had qualms about the more conservative Gary Herbert. This should put the Herbert-Bell team in the pole position for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010, and may deter prospective Republican primary challengers.