SALT LAKE CITY — State Sen. Deidre Henderson filed for reelection this month confident she could win a third term in the Utah Legislature.
But after she and her husband, Gabe, met with Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and his wife, Abby, at their home in Fairview this past Saturday, the Spanish Fork Republican accepted his offer to be his running mate in the Utah governor’s race.
“It’s a risk for me,” Henderson said Thursday outside the state elections office where she filed as a lieutenant governor candidate. She withdrew from the Senate race the day before.
“I can say I wouldn’t have given that up for just anybody,” she said. “I do believe that Spencer’s the right person for this job. I’ve seen him in action. I’ve seen his leadership skills.”
Henderson and Cox were both elected to the Legislature in 2012. They served one legislative session together in 2013 until Gov. Gary Herbert appointed Cox, a relatively unknown freshman House member, as lieutenant governor to replace Greg Bell.
Cox called Henderson a tremendous leader and a consistent conservative who is unafraid of doing what’s right for the people she serves.
“With her proven ability to lead communities during challenging times, Abby and I are confident we have found the perfect partner for the uncertainty that lies ahead,” he said in a statement.
Because Cox heads the Utah Coronavirus Task Force, day-to-day campaign responsibilities will immediately fall to Henderson. He said his sole focus right now is the health, well-being and economic recovery of the state.
“She has my full and complete trust,” Cox said.
Henderson said she’ll sit down with the campaign team and figure out new strategies in the “fluid situation, evolving situation” candidates find themselves in during this election cycle.
“I’m really excited to join forces with him. He and I share the same conservative principles and I’m excited to have that statewide voice to promote those conservative principles to the people of Utah,” Henderson said.
"I knew that if Abby and I decided to run for Governor of the greatest state in America, exactly who my Lt. Governor would be.— Cox for Governor (@coxforgovernor) March 19, 2020
My fellows Utahns, it is my honor and privilege to officially introduce to you our next Lt. Governor, @DeidreHenderson." @SpencerJCox#utpol#VoteCoxpic.twitter.com/JkNz8zMJjS
In the Legislature, she has been an advocate of government transparency, conservative tax policy, and efforts to remove barriers to entry for small businesses in Utah.
The two-term senator made national news last week when she and the other women in the Utah Senate pushed back against a bill that would have required a doctor to show a woman an ultrasound before an abortion.
Lawmakers adopted Henderson’s amendment to the bill that would have explicitly prohibited the use of a transvaginal ultrasound, but she then joined the other female senators in a bipartisan walkout during the vote.
Henderson would be the state’s second female lieutenant governor if elected. The last woman in the job, Olene Walker, became governor when Gov. Mike Leavitt resigned to work in the George W. Bush administration. Henderson said she’s prepared to fill the top job should that happen.
One of Cox’s criteria in choosing a lieutenant governor was that it be someone he believed would be able to step in and fill that role in any situation.
“I hope I can live up to that expectation and if that time ever arises, I certainly plan to do so if the occasion comes,” Henderson said.
Before running for office, Henderson worked as political director and campaign manager for former GOP Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz. Henderson and her husband have been married for 26 years, and are the parents to four grown children and one teenager. They have lived in Spanish Fork for the past 22 years.