SALT LAKE CITY -- Top of Utah candidates are among the popular names being bandied about as a possible replacement to Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, who announced Monday he will step down from office,
The surprising announcement brought praise for Bell, R-Fruit Heights, a moderate within state Republican Party circles and also ignited speculation on who Herbert might consider and what parameters will go into the decision-making process.
Local names being discussed include former State Senator Dan Liljenquist of Bountiful, Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce President Lane Beattie, who lives in Davis County, Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, Rep. Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace and Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden.
Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, thinks it would be wise if Herbert looked at the Top of Utah for Bell's replacement. He said there are a lot of qualified candidates in both Weber and Davis counties.
Adams said Liljenquist, Stevenson, and Wilson would be good possibilities and lists Dee and Reid as possibilities as well. Stevenson and Wilson both took new positions of leadership in the Legislature this past session and Dee is the House Majority Leader. Reid has run several bills at the behest of the governor.
"I'm not on the short list but there are lots of qualified people that he could choose," Adams said.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, listed Liljenquist and Wilson as possible replacements, when he addressed the topic of replacing Bell.
Wilson said he has no knowledge of being on the governor's short list and he said there is a time and season to everything. He doesn't think this is his time or season. "I'm honored to be considered," the Kaysville Republican said of speculation.
"I have no idea what the governor is thinking in terms of a replacement but I don't think geographical balance is that critical. I mean, he won't choose someone from Utah County but other than that, he's got to get who he thinks is the best person available," Handy said.
Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, sees benefit in having some geographic balance on the ticket, but says getting a qualified replacement is the most important issue.
"I do believe there is a benefit to the citizens to have someone from another geographic areas of the state than the governor to provide for a broader perspective in the governor's office and I believe there are many qualified candidates in northern Utah for the governor to consider and I hope he will look at northern Utah leaders as he looks for a replacement for Lt. Gov. Bell," Perry said.
Even Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, who heads the state Democratic Party, sees value in looking for north for a replacement for Bell.
"Given the current circumstances, integrity and having knowledge of the workings of government are most important. Geographic balance is a critical element as well. I would support the governor selecting someone from Weber County," Dabakis said.
Herbert said he is not ready to announce Bell's replacement at this time but admits he has a short list in mind, but will take his time in finalizing his selection.
"I expect we will make a formal announcement in the near future," the governor said.
The replacement will be subject to confirmation from the Utah Senate.
In the meantime, discussion of qualification and criteria are heating up in a number of circles in the Beehive State.
Political leanings are one of those key discussion points.
During the past campaign, Herbert, a former Utah County commissioner, described himself as the most conservative governor the state has had since Brigham Young. A more moderate voice would bring balance to the administration, according to Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville. He said that choice could come from Davis or Weber counties.
Dabakis worries Herbert may look too far right for a replacement. He says the possibility of House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, running for governor, may influence the decision
"With Provo's Speaker Lockhart running for governor my fear is that the Herbert machine is worried about re-election, particularly at the GOP state convention. Maybe he ditched Bell because Greg is too reasonable for the TeaPublicans. Now, he will be looking for a Lt. Governor that will please the right, right wing. It would be a sad day for Utah, if we lose one of our best in state government to a TeaPublican," Dabakis told the Standard-Examiner.
Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, said he believes Herbert will choose someone who can best fill the duties and responsibilities of the office.
"I have lots of faith in him," Christensen said.