SALT LAKE CITY -- Governor Gary Herbert and his election challenger, Jonathan Johnson, are racing across the state to answer questions, shake hands and pose for pictures with voters, hoping to earn their ballot in Tuesday's primary election.
Herbert would not agree to a televised debate with Johnson leading up to the primary, but both candidates agreed to sit down with FOX 13 one-on-one to outline their policy positions and goals, if they were to be elected.
The two outlined policy platforms on education, economic development, medical marijuana and sparred on campaign fundraising approaches. Herbert has been criticized for tape-recorded comments where he referred to himself as "Available Jones" (comments he said he regrets) while Johnson has been accused of being beholden to his primary campaign donor, Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne (whom he says he made no promises).
Johnson and Herbert disagree on how best to approach federal lands issues. Johnson said Thursday he favors a lawsuit against the federal government for control of public lands. Herbert has adopted a wait-and-see approach, wanting to see how Rep. Rob Bishop's public lands initiative works.
"It would be foolish to throw that effort out the window and as soon as we bring a lawsuit, that stops," Herbert said. "We enter into litigation that takes five to 10 years. We ought to see what happens with this legislative effort, which shows fruit."
Johnson told FOX 13 he would support privatizing liquor sales in Utah. Alcohol should be licensed and taxed, but Johnson said he questions why Utah is in the business of distributing it. Herbert has said liquor laws are fine the way they are.
"Shoot, we could sell a number of liquor licenses so that Costco, Trader Joe's or Walmart or whoever will have liquor licenses, and restrict when, how they sell liquor, not to sell to minors, not sell on Sundays, enforce the laws we have in place and if they ever didn't enforce those regulations they'd pay a big fine," Johnson said.
On more personal notes, Herbert said he's fairly shy and never intended to get into politics, but first ran as a Utah County Commissioner.
"Somebody challenged me and said, 'If you don't like what they're doing, why don't you run yourself?'" he said. "So that's what I did. It was a very improbable journey."
Johnson addressed his distinctive voice and revealed he once hosted a TV show in Japan.
"Some doctors think I damaged my vocal chords and I've got some nodes on them. My aunts and uncles say it's my great grandfather's voice," he said. "It's my unique voice and I lean in. I like it."
The primary election is Tuesday. A majority of Utah's counties are participating in vote-by-mail elections. Ballots must be postmarked by Monday or hand-delivered to a county clerk on Tuesday in order to be counted, the state elections office said.