Gary R. Herbert

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Gary R. Herbert is the Governor of Utah, and is running for reelection in the November 2016 Election, Utah with Spencer J. Cox as his running mate.

The overall impression we began with was that Gary Herbert was not a comfortably strong ideological conservative. His actions, such as his decision to be the only Republican Governor to fail to refuse Syrian refugees in the light of the federal government's biased and insecure screening process[1], suggest an influence from his LDS religion, which speaks well for his integrity. However, his actions further suggest that he puts reelection at a premium. Alternatively this might be explained by him simply wanting to be a people pleaser, and to keep the peace. One anecdote that stands out comes from the events surrounding House Bill 477 in 2011:

"During the 2011 legislative session, Herbert signed into law House Bill 477 after it passed through the legislature in three days. The bill would have drastically reduced the ability of citizens to access public records, especially records of Legislators. After large public outcry, Herbert announced he would sign the bill yet also call a special session to repeal the new law."[2]

It is hard to imagine what would have led Gary Herbert to sign such a bill, but one might imagine that by signing the bill initially, and then passing it through the legislature again, he was acting deferentially towards the legislature. Despite the cost, this gave the legislature a chance to participate in responding to the outcry and might have spared some hurt feeling.

Another anecdote that stands out is Gary Herbert's endorsement of Ted Cruz in 2016. Gary Herbert had provided vocal support for John Kasich, and even as he went in to meet with Ted Cruz about a potential endorsement, he spoke glowingly of John Kasich. In the end, his endorsement went to Ted Cruz. Politico reported:

"Herbert, who is up for reelection himself this year, has withheld his endorsement so far. Though he expresses heartfelt admiration for his colleague, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, he acknowledges that Cruz is more in line ideologically with Utah conservatives."[3]

The impression that is left, is that although Gary Herbert prefers John Kasich, his constituents prefer Ted Cruz, so he met with Ted Cruz to get some assurances to lay the groundwork for an endorsement. His endorsement of Ted Cruz, then, doesn't really come off as genuine.

The most concerning thing, of all, in the light of these observations, however, is his signing of SB 54, and subsequent utilization of the signature process to get on the Republican primary ballot.

SB 54 represents an alarming intrusion into the operations of a set of private organizations, regulating how political parties can select their candidates for an election. We cannot see how such a regulation can be seen as legitimate. Apart from the issue of the legitimacy of regulating the internal workings of a private organization in this way, the bill burdens political parties with substantial extra cost and provides a backdoor for questionable candidates to avoid having to pass the scrutiny of a party's elected delegates. Gary Herbert, himself, having drawn the ire of conservative political observers for his relatively moderate brand of conservatism, might have had trouble getting onto the ballot as the Republican candidate, if forced to undergo party scrutiny against a more ideologically conservative candidate. However, he has signed into law his own back door, and he is using it. He has not pleased conservatives, or respected the rights of his constituents, but he may have given himself a shot at reelection.

In digging into the history of Gary Herbert's campaign claims, and how different they are from the facts of his governorship, about the only thing that seems to be true is that he presided over an economic boom. We have a hard time, however giving him the credit for that. The blatant dishonesty, however, lowers our estimation of Gary Herbert to the point that we lose all faith in his good intentions and begin to suspect that he is a closeted progressive. We recommend a review of the results of our research below.


SB 54

Is widely criticized in the Republican Party for signing SB 54 of 2014 into law, which is disliked by Republicans, because it regulates the process by which political parties in Utah, which are private organization, choose their candidates for state and county elections. Of particular concern at the time of the November 2016 Election, Utah, is a requirement that candidates be allowed to enter a race with a political party by gathering signatures, bypassing the normal caucus system, whereby candidates are elected by delegates. This creates expense for the political parties, undermines the authority of the party delegates. In Utah County, delegates were reported to have booed signature gathering candidates for their leveraging of this abusive provision, and the official party stance has been to refuse to acknowledge candidates (with either resources or endorsement) entering races via the signature gathering method.

Gary Herbert has entered the race via the signature gathering method.

Air Quality

Air Quality is one of the issues that Gary Herbert is focusing on in his campaign. Utah has some unique air quality issues and hence, it makes sense, that the state government act to defend the life and property of residents against abuses by requiring that people curb emission of pollutants. there are many smart things that can be done here, such as setting workable emission standards, promoting innovation through smart policy, and promoting wise use of resources. Per Gary Herbert's website, he has worked on setting emission standards, but his attempts to set smart policy and promote the wise use of resources seems poorly thought out and unnecessarily encroach on the need for self-reliance. An example of this is Gary Herbert's proposed ban on wood-burning stoves.[6] If this were absolutely necessary, it might be a reasonable sacrifice, since pollutants are a threat to life and property, while his proposed ban is a threat to life, liberty, and/or property, (ie. we lose some ability to provide for our own heating, a necessary thing in the winter) all important considerations. However, it is not necessary, and it is not even significant towards the end that he proposes. Ignoring the issue of personal liberty and promoting blunt and ineffective legislation is not something we need more of.

Common Core and Education

Common Core is one of the issues that Gary Herbert is focusing on in his campaign. Common Core is an issue many states are facing, and is particularly unpopular in Utah. From its at-times awkward implementation, to its abuse of federal jurisdiction, common core, and related federal education programs have ruffled many feathers.

Gary Herbert has claimed some successes on this front, but they don't really add up.

Unfortunately, Gary Herbert's actions have, for years, not been in line with his statements this election year. In 2010 Gary Herbert included implementing Common Core and Common Core-based testing as part of his education plan. In 2011 he signed law that obligated Utah to support some major federal reforms. In 2014 he was denying the origins of Common Core, pretending it was created by the states, and that it did not involve any federal overreach.[7] In June 2015, he was lobbying Congress to have them abuse their authority even further by forcing states to consolidate more authority for education into the hands of the governors. (Many states already did this, but not Utah, and Congress has no authority to do this.)[8] Everything he has done on the subject has promoted federal overreach in education.

Claim: Called for the Elimination of the Federal Department of Education

A good move on Gary Herbert's part, in February, 2016, was to call for the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education. We need more of this, but it would seem more sincere if such moves were made before an election year, but it seems unlikely that he had much control over the timing of the Every Student Succeeds Act. His stated position at that time was "Utahns don’t have the luxury of deciding which federal laws to follow. Gov. Herbert believes there should not be a federal Department of Education, but because there is and until Congress disbands it, the state of Utah has a responsibility to seek as much flexibility as possible from the department." We might have liked a position that lacked a need to acquiesce to illegitimate authority, but his stated position is consistent with his standard approach of not ruffling feathers.[9]

Claim: SB287

Gary Herbert claims that SB287, which he signed, "makes it illegal for the federal government to have any control over our state standards and curriculum". It's not a terribly long law, and it is easy to see that this is a lie.

Claim: Investigation by Attorney General Sean Reyes

It is not at all clear that Sean D. Reyes, the Attorney General is an unbiased observer. He was appointed to that position by Gary Herbert, so it is hard to imagine that he is free of the Governor's influence. This appeal to authority doesn't do much to contradict many established facts.

Gary Herbert claims that the Attorney General found that Utah had not "ceded authority over our education system to the federal government on Common Core or any other standards". However, the report specifically found that the federal government had used coercion to "[infringe] upon local and state authority over public education".[10] Gary Herbert's assertion here is not accurate.[11][12]

Claim: Lobbied Congress to Repeal the No Child Left Behind Act

Gary Herbert claims that he lobbied Congress to repeal the No Child Left Behind Act. This is not completely accurate. Gary Herbert gave a nice sounding speech in favor of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act. As a replacement, it really expanded the government overreach that had previously been enshrined in the No Child Left Behind Act. (Not that anyone could likely have known that, as the text of the act was not long available before it was voted on.)

Economic Strength

It is undeniably true that Utah's economy has had a boon during the years when Gary Herbert was Governor. He has claimed that this was done, in part, by keeping taxes down. However, Utahns have, as of 2015, seen a hike in gas taxes and property taxes.[13][14] And back in 2011 he complained that lawmakers had gone too far with budget cuts and proposed making self-employed Utahns pay their income taxes on a quarterly basis.[15] We can imagine that he may still have worked to keep taxes low. Perhaps it might have been worse. However, Gary Herbert has refused to take a pledge that he would not raise taxes, and his history is full of opposition to tax cuts, tax hike proposals, and successful tax hikes.[16]

We don't generally give much credit to politicians claiming credit for economic boons. The forces of the economy can be influenced by legislation and executive action, but there are also recognizable cycles in the economy which politicians will regularly claim credit for, and it seems clear, that for Utah, we are in the middle of a regular upswing. It is interesting that Utah is one of the few states to experience this upswing so dramatically. It has been very subdued generally, so there might be some credit to take there, regarding the size of the upswing.

Another thing we don't give much credit to is jobs. Job numbers are related to the strength of the economy, but they are also related to our loss of personal freedom. People who find alternative work options often don't get counted in jobs numbers.

What we do look for, in relation to the economy, is fiscal responsibility, fiscal conservatism, and deregulation. While Gary Herbert touts his suppression of tax rates and his deregulation, it is hard to find good examples that predate the 2016 election year, and he doesn't really even provide examples in his appeal to voters. Some examples, however, do exist in this election year, though few really relate to business. Most cut internal government reporting requirements, others affect education. Notably, Utah has allowed for the possibility that sellers of unpasteurized milk will also be able to sell pasteurized milk, under certain conditions, a fee for public airlines has been lifted, and taxes on the oil and gas industry are said to have been reduced. (Though the pages of added regulation make us wonder if this was really a good deal. Analysis needed.)[17][18]

Money in Politics

Gary Herbert has a few eyebrow-raising campaign contribution issues documented on Wikipedia.

In May of 2016 someone secretly recorded portions of a meeting in which Gary Herbert was discussing fundraising. Some of his statements strongly suggested a willingness to engage in a quid-pro-quo relationship with donors.[19][20][21] It has also been noted that he has strongly out-fundraised and out-spent his opponent, Jonathan Johnson, in the 2016 campaign for Governor.[22][23][24]

Other Issues

Gary Herbert vetoed a constitutional carry bill in 2013 and promised to veto another that ended up being shelved in 2016.[25] He seeks to expand Medicaid.[26]

Has criticized current earmarking practices as reducing flexibility in spending.[27]

Has opposed proposals to legislate special protected classes. ("We don't have to have a rule for everybody to do the right thing. We ought to just do the right thing because it's the right thing to do and we don't have to have a law that punishes us if we don't")[28]

Signed Utah's Ag-gag legislation.[29]

He has expressed support for the Trump-Pence ticket, though he expressed that he was doing it for Pence.[30]

He has attempted to block funding from Planned Parenthood.[31]

He signed a resolution calling pornography a public health crisis.[32][33] He has received a lot of blowback from the pornography industry and related publications.[34] He has further sought to allocate $50,000 in taxpayer money to the nonprofit Utah Coalition Against Pornography in his annual budget request at the end of 2016.[35]

Quoted in a September 2016 debate as saying "My opponent is more of a traditional, liberal Democrat. (There's) nothing wrong with that."[36]

In December 2016, Gary Herbert announced an agreement with Amazon to collect state sales taxes on purchases made through[37]

In the 2017 race for the 3rd District congressional seat vacated by Jason Chaffetz, Gary Herbert endorsed John Curtis in the Republican primary.[38]

External Resources


  1. Max Roth, "Herbert now only Republican gov. who has not refused Syrian refugees", Fox News 13: Salt Lake City, NOVEMBER 17, 2015
  2. Gary Herbert, Wikipedia, 22 Apr 2016
  3. Kile Cheney, "Utah governor admires Kasich but will huddle with Cruz as endorsement looms", Politico, 18-March-2016
  4. Dennis Romboy, "Utah Fraternal Order of Police endorses Gov. Gary Herbert", KSL, 30 May 2016
  5. Lisa Riley Roche, "Mitt Romney endorses Gov. Gary Herbert", KSL, 16 Jun 2016
  6. Brian Maffly, "Gov. Gary Herbert proposes wood-burning ban in Utah", The Salt Lake Tribune, Dec 03 2014 07:21PM
  7. Oak Norton, "GOVERNOR HERBERT’S OUTRAGEOUS CLAIM", Utahns Against Common Core, 31 March 2016
  8. Jonathan Johnson, "My view: Gov. Herbert doesn't need Congress to have role in public education", Deseret New, June 19 2015
  9. "Governor testifies before Congress on end to No Child Left Behind mandates", Utah Governor Gary Herbert (blog), Feb 2016
  10. Sean D. Reyes, "Re: Common Core Standards Legal Analysis", The State of Utah Office of the Attorney General, 7 Oct 2014
  11. Benjamin Wood, "Utah A.G.: Common Core doesn’t cede school control to feds", Salt Lake Tribune, 7 Oct 2014
  12. Christel Swasey, "RESPONDING TO THE UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL’S REPORT ON COMMON CORE", Utahns Against Common Core, 29 Oct 2014
  13. Ben Winslow, "Governor Herbert signs tax hikes into law", Fox 13: Salt Lake City, MARCH 27, 2015
  14. Robert Gehrke, "Guv signs two bills raising Utah taxes by more than $150 million", Salt Lake Tribune, 27 Mar 2015
  15. Lisa Riley Roche, "Governor Herbert says lawmakers went too far with budget cuts", Deseret News, 24 Feb 2011
  16. Jonathan Johnson, "Jonathan Johnson’s Tax Pledge", Hire Jonathan Johnson, 2016
  17. Gary Herbert, "Governor signs bills cutting red tape in government", Utah Governor Gary Herbert, April 2016
  18. Gary Herbert, "Governor signs bills to reduce standardized testing", Utah Governor Gary Herbert, April 2016
  19. GlennBeckBookList, "Glenn Beck Discuss Utah Governor Herbert's Speed Dating for Money #HireJJ", YouTube, 18 May 2016
  20. Lisa Riley Roche, "Gov. Gary Herbert says 'tone' of fundraising will change amid criticism",, 16 May 2016
  21. Slickrock, "Meet With Our Governor from Utah - 'Available Jones'",, 15 May 2016
  22. Lisa Riley Roche, "Gov. Gary Herbert spending more on TV commercials than challenger Johnathan Johnson",, 5 Jun 2016
  23. Michelle L. Price, "Gov. Herbert raises $1.3M ahead of primary battle", KSL, 23 Jun 2016
  24. Robert Gehrke, "In audio, Utah guv says he will ‘go anywhere’ to meet with campaign donors — for a check", Salt Lake Tribune, 14 May 2016
  25. Dennis Romboy, "State senator shelves 'constitutional carry' gun bill", Deseret News, 10 Feb 2016
  26. Lisa Riley Roche, "Gov. Herbert: Medicaid expansion efforts won't end", Deseret News, 12 Oct 2015
  27. Sebastian Johnson, "State Rundown 1/7: New Year, New Taxes", Tax Justice Blog, 7 Jan 2016
  28. OnTheIssues citing "Gays aren't in protected class", Associated Press, 28 Aug 2009
  29. Robert Gehrke, "Herbert signs so-called 'ag-gag' bill", Salt Lake Tribune, 20 Mar 2012
  30. Lisa Riley Roche, "Utah delegates finally stand and cheer for Donald Trump", KSL, 21 Jul 2016
  31. Daphne Chen, "Planned Parenthood wins preliminary injunction in lawsuit against Herbert", KSL, 12 Jul 2016
  32. Corky Siemaszko, "Utah Governor Gary Herbert Declares Pornography a Public Health Hazard", NBC News, 20-April-2016
  33. "Utah calls pornography public health crisis, in US first", Yahoo, 19-April-2016
  34. "Utah Governor Gary Herbert (sort of) makes the cover of Penthouse", Fox News, 3 Aug 2016
  35. Kaitlyn, Schallhorn, "One governor is requesting $50K from taxpayers to fight pornography", The Blaze, 13 Dec 2016
  36. Lisa Riley Roche, "Herbert, Weinholtz spar over economy, Medicaid expansion, public lands in debate", KSL, 26 Sep 2016
  37. Lisa Riley Roche, "Governor announces deal with Amazon to collect sales tax on Utah purchases", KSL, 7 Dec 2016
  38. Lisa Riley Roche, "Gov. Gary Herbert endorses Provo Mayor John Curtis in 3rd District race", KSL, 25 Jul 2017