Legislative session begins, tax repeal introduced 22

Sen. Deidre Henderson looks over information during the first day of the legislative session held at the Utah State Capitol on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in Salt Lake City. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Spanish Fork Republican Sen. Deidre Henderson, who announced Wednesday that she won’t seek reelection to the Utah State Senate this year, is running for lieutenant governor as current Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox’s running mate.

In a video posted to Facebook and Twitter on Thursday, Cox said he is impressed with Henderson’s “willingness to do the right thing regardless of the consequences.”

“And that’s a true leader,” Cox said.

Henderson tweeted that she is “humbled by this opportunity” and grateful that Cox “has trust in me to follow in his footsteps as lieutenant governor.”

The announcement comes a day after Henderson withdrew her candidacy for re-election to Senate District 7, which she served over for eight years.

Cox tweeted that Henderson will oversee campaign responsibilities while his “sole focus will continue to be the health and safety of our state” as head of the Utah Coronavirus Task Force.

In an interview on Thursday, Henderson said she had been involved in talks with the Cox campaign for a few weeks and was asked to join Saturday.

“So this decision was really formalized over the weekend,” said Henderson.

Henderson said she will continue to serve out the remainder of her Senate term, which ends in January.

“Definitely my Senate service will come first,” Henderson said, “but I am going to be taking the lead in campaigning on behalf of the lieutenant governor.”

Giving up running for reelection to the Senate was “a really difficult decision for me to make,” Henderson said.

“I have loved serving in the Senate,” she said. “I love my colleagues, I will miss that. But I’ve been there for eight years, and I don’t believe that any office should be a lifetime appointment. I think it’s good to let other people get involved as well.”

Henderson added that she and Cox “will be working on more in-depth policy positions in the coming days” and that these policies will be based on their “share(d) conservative principles.”

“We both believe in limited government, in free markets (and) in our First and Second Amendment rights, of course,” Henderson said.

The Spanish Fork senator passed a bill this legislative session, which ended last Friday, to decriminalize polygamy in the state. Henderson told her colleagues that polygamists “are tired of being treated like second-class citizens” and “feel like Utah has legalized prejudice against them.”

The bill received overwhelming support from lawmakers.

Henderson joined Utah’s five other women senators in walking off the Senate floor on March 10 in protest of a bill that would require women seeking abortions to receive ultrasounds 72 hours prior to the procedure. Days later, the House voted to hold the bill.

Henderson’s colleagues in the Legislature reacted positively on social media to her run for lieutenant governor.

“Congratulations, Senator!” tweeted Sen. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper. “You make a great team! I will miss working with you in the Senate, but grateful for your continued willingness to serve.”

“Very cool Senator, good luck on this new endeavor,” Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, tweeted.

Utah County Commissioner Tanner Ainge voiced his support for Henderson and called her and Cox a “winning team.”

“That was fast,” Ainge tweeted. “She has my vote.”

Henderson, who previously served as political director and campaign manager for former U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is the second Utah County politician to be tapped for lieutenant governor this year.

On Feb. 7, former Utah Governor and U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr., who is running for governor, announced that Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi would be his running mate.

Provo-based businessman Jeff Burningham also is among the candidates running for governor this year.

A number of candidates are running for Henderson’s Senate District 7 seat, including Spanish Fork Republican Rep. Mike McKell, Scott Neilson, Emily Bergeson and Flor de Maria Sulbaran.

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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