SALT LAKE CITY — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Peterson called on Governor Gary Herbert to immediately remove Lt. Governor Spencer Cox as head of the state's COVID-19 Community Task Force.
In a fiery statement Friday, Peterson demanded his Republican opponent's ouster after Utah recorded a record-breaking 1,117 new cases of COVID-19.
"The Legislature created and funded a Department of Health to oversee public health crises. Instead of acting within his traditional constitutional role, the Lieutenant Governor has crossed out of his lane and usurped the function of the Department of Health. Since then we have seen the State’s COVID response hijacked by unproven and ineffective treatments, defective cell phone software, testing delays, and insufficient protective equipment for vulnerable frontline workers," Peterson said in the statement.
"Lt. Governor Cox is a good person, but, with respect, his expertise has been elections and lobbyists; he should stick to that and let our medical professionals and scientists do their job."
But the governor's office pushed back, suggesting Peterson was not keeping up with current events.
"As one of the State’s constitutional officers, the Lt. Governor will continue to play a role in the State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The constitution sets those terms, not the politics of the day," Gov. Herbert's office said in its own statement. "Moreover, it appears the candidate’s petition has not kept abreast of important changes in our response — our office has not relied on the COVID-19 Community Task Force as a decision making body since March 26, when we established the Unified Command Group. This shift enhanced collaboration between public health and safety experts, who meet daily to set the course for Utah’s COVID-19 response. That command reports directly to the governor and the lieutenant governor, as is appropriate in this crisis."
The most recent polling shows Peterson getting nearly 20% of the vote to 55% for Cox with 15% of those surveyed saying they are undecided.