Provo breaks ground on new airport terminal 04

Lt. Governor Spencer Cox addresses attendees during the Provo terminal groundbreaking, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. (Photo by Johnny Morris, special to the Daily Herald)

Utah gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and running mate Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, have temporarily limited their campaign activity and are urging supporters to donate to neighbors and friends who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to supporters posted to social media Friday, Cox and Henderson said that a public health crisis “is not the time for new expensive ads, fancy call centers, or fundraising asks.”

“As many of you were planning on making a contribution to our campaign, please think of someone who might need it more than we do,” the letter said.

The two candidates said they have canceled campaign events, taken TV ads down and moved meetings to online. They asked supporters to think about who in their community could benefit from the money they would have donated to the campaign.

“Find out which of your neighbors will miss paychecks,” Cox and Henderson said. “Leave a larger tip when you pick up take-out from your local restaurant. Gift a bike or video game to a child down the street. Help a healthcare worker whose daycare budget has run out. Send a member of your staff experiencing a lighter workload to pick up an elderly neighbor’s groceries.”

Henderson, who withdrew as a candidate for reelection to the Utah Senate last week to run for lieutenant governor, said she and Cox are currently more concerned with public wellbeing than with campaigning.

“As you and your family tighten your financial belt, we are committed to doing so along with you,” Henderson tweeted.

On Thursday, Cox placed Henderson in charge of “day-to-day campaign responsibilities” while he chairs the Utah Coronavirus Task Force. Henderson, whose Senate term ends in January, told the Daily Herald that her responsibilities as a state senator would take priority over campaigning.

The running mates received praise on social media for their decision to limit campaigning by suspending TV ads and canceling events.

“Not sure I’ve ever seen that (from a campaign) before, but it makes me want to do my part,” Utah County Commissioner Tanner Ainge tweeted. “This is a different type of campaign.”

Don Stirling, executive vice president of the Utah Jazz, thanked Cox and Henderson “for the leadership and for doing the right thing.”

The coronavirus pandemic has forced other candidates for governor to shift their campaign strategies as well.

Provo-based businessman Jeff Burningham, who is running as a Republican, announced on March 13 that he would suspend signature gathering to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

“In a competitive and crucial campaign in our state this was a difficult decision, but I am sure it was the right one,” Burningham said in a written statement. “I could not in good conscience send my team and volunteers out door-to-door when we are facing a serious public health crisis.”

Republican candidate and Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton also stopped gathering signatures but did not cite coronavirus concerns as a reason for doing so.

Former Utah GOP Chairman Thomas Wright and running mate United States Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, suspended town halls on March 13 “to minimize exposure” to coronavirus and said they will hold “tele-town hall meetings” instead.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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