SALT LAKE CITY -- Lt. Governor Spencer Cox smiled and shook hands as about 200 people packed a hotel ballroom to meet with him.
Governor Gary Herbert hosted a $2,000 a plate luncheon as his second-in-command leans toward a gubernatorial run in 2020.
"I think he’s considering it and he’s certainly well qualified, so we’ll see," the governor said before heading into the luncheon at the Little America Hotel on Tuesday.
For his part, Cox was non-committal when asked directly by FOX 13 if he was running for governor.
"We’re just going there! You’re not even going to dance around this a little bit?" he laughed. "All right. The answer is, we haven’t made that final decision yet."
The luncheon was meant to gauge the level of support Cox would have if he were to seek the Republican nomination for governor. Gov. Herbert told FOX 13 "never say never" when asked if he was pursuing another term. But he wouldn't be hosting a fundraiser luncheon for his Lt. Governor if he wasn't pushing Cox toward a run.
"I think he needs to look into the possibility and I think people need to consider him as a contender," the governor said.
The luncheon was filled with Utah politicos, lobbyists and supporters like Owen Fuller, who has launched a political action committee to draft Cox to run for governor.
"If Lt. Governor Cox is willing to run we’re going to be there for him, we’re going to be volunteers, we’re going to knock on doors, we’ll donate money and that’s the kind of momentum a person needs to see when they’re weighing such a big decision," Fuller said.
Cox, who is popular amongst Republicans and Democrats for some of his political stances and his social media presence, said he is flattered by the attention.
"They don’t let kids from Sanpete County do this and so we’re flattered and we’re honored. I would encourage people to be real with me. I don’t want people to tell me what I want to hear, I want them to tell me what they really think and then when it comes time to make that decision we’ll be ready," he said.
The Lt. Governor is headed into a crowded Republican field. On Tuesday, Provo businessman Jeff Burningham announced he was forming an exploratory committee for a gubernatorial run. Former House Speaker Greg Hughes told FOX 13 he is considering a run for governor. So is Salt Lake County Council Chairwoman Aimee Winder Newton. Other names being floated include former congressman Jason Chaffetz, former Utah Jazz CEO Greg Miller and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.
Pressed by FOX 13 on whether he would pursue a gubernatorial run, Cox acknowledged he is leaning toward it. A final decision was not expected until this summer when he said he wanted a son who is serving an LDS mission in Africa to return home so his entire family could weigh in.
"We’re definitely leaning that direction. There’s no question about it," Cox told FOX 13. "I’d say we’re 90 percent there, but it’s that last 10 percent that’s the hardest part because that’s when it gets real."