Incumbent Republican Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert says there is no daylight between his principles and those of the Republican Party. If voters want to understand the differences between his platform and those of his Democratic challenger Peter Cooke, they don't need to read the small print.

"I stand for the principles in the Republican Party platform. I expect that Peter Cooke stands for the principles espoused in the Democratic Party platform and there are differences there," he said during an interview in Park City last week.

Herbert added, that his views on the role of government align with presidential candidate Mitt Romney. "Mitt Romney and I say government ought to be limited in our life, that we ought to do what we can to keep it off your back and out of your wallets. Empower the private sector. Let the private sector solve the problems. They are better, they are more efficient at virtually everything when it comes to delivery of services and goods."

While declining to mention names, Herbert suggested that Utah's Democratic candidates have not been as forthcoming about where they stand.

"We have people in the Democratic Party, for example, that want to get elected in Utah, that won't put the symbol for the Democratic Party on their signs. They say, 'We accept the party platform except for this and this and this and, heavens, we don't accept the national party platform. So it's hard to know."

Herbert went on to explain that he is "not anti-government" but would prefer to limit the role of government and empower the private sector, which would help to lower taxes.


As to his place on today's Republican spectrum, Herbert distances himself from the far right.

"I am clearly a right-of-center conservative. I am conservative in principle, moderate in tone and inclusive in process."

So far, Herbert's self-described "Ronald Reagan mode" has kept him in tune with the state Legislature's Republican majority. After serving five years as lieutenant governor, Herbert took over when former Gov. Jon Huntsman resigned to become the U.S. ambassador to China. In 2010, in a special election to determine who would serve out the last two year's of Huntsman's term, Herbert defeated Democrat Peter Corroon by a substantial margin.

With a little more than a month to go, Herbert is focusing on the General Election, and in a campaign swing through Park City he met with The Park Record to highlight his position on several issues of particular interest to Summit County voters.

State support for tourism and travel

Herbert is quick to point out that he has been a strong advocate for the state's tourism industry.

"Tourism has been a priority for me since I was the lieutenant governor. In fact," he claims, "we have put more money into tourism in just our first few years than the last administration did in their tenure. We increased the amount of money we put into tourism and travel probably by 300 percent."

Herbert pledged that, if reelected, he will continue to help grow Utah's market share of the tourism industry, including both winter and summer business.

Incentives offered to film industry and Sundance

With his Park City constituents in mind, Herbert pointed out that his office has added $5 million in incentives to bolster the film industry. Those incentives, he said, have helped to attract some big movie projects including last year's "John Carter" and the upcoming "Lone Ranger" with Johnny Depp, which has been filming in Moab and is due to be released later this year.

The state also contributes about $300,000 to the Sundance Film Institute, which he says has been a sound investment.

"Of course, we do that because it is a great way to expose Utah to the world. It has worked remarkably well. I think the impact is $50 or $60 million a year on our economy of having the two-week Sundance Film Festival," he said.

SkiLink should be considered

While the state does not hold all of the cards in deciding the fate of a proposed ski lift connecting Canyons resort and Solitude, he believes the controversial proposal deserves serious consideration. The concept, introduced by the Talisker Corporation, which owns Canyons, has aroused the ire of environmental groups who say allowing the resorts to connect through the backcountry could harm the watershed and exacerbate development pressures in the backcountry. Herbert says those concerns are valid but can be overcome.

"Like any citizen of Utah, I want what's in the best interest of the people of Utah. I think the idea of an interconnect, a capability of connecting our ski resorts together, propels us to the front of the line when it comes to attracting people to come here.

"That being said, we also, though, are wise to know that we need to do it in a way that respects the environment, that doesn't cause some kind of degradation of our pristine environment, our beautiful valleys and the mountain slopes.

"So I think the concept is good that ought to be explored. I think the benefit economically is pretty significant and I believe there probably is a way to do it that is environmentally sensitive, and that is what we need to discuss -- that is the debate.

Guv sticks with call for state control of federal lands

Herbert has also crossed swords with environmentalists over his and the Legislature's support of House Bill 148, the Transfer of Public Lands Act, which demands the transfer of about 20 million acres of federally owned land to the state. While the national parks and most of the national monuments are exempt from the legislation, large swaths of National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands could be handed over to state control or sold. The bill is one of several similar ones proposed by Utah and neighboring Western states that are bridling against federal control of public lands. As the newly elected chairman of the Western Governors' Association, Herbert has championed that message.

"I do support it. I think we just need to look for ways to optimize the management of our public lands and I think it would be unwise and probably counterproductive if the management does not take into account the concerns and the input of the local communities and the state. We've got ideas. We've got input to give that would help manage those resources better," he said.

Specifically, he referred to the bark-beetle infestation and increase in forest fires as symptoms of poor federal management.

"About 70 percent of our land mass is publicly owned land and we want to have a say in it and have input on how it is going to be managed. That's all HB 148 does," he emphasized.

As to concerns that the state might cave in to mining and timber interests if given control, Herbert said the bill calls for the formation of a commission to ensure "reasonable, balanced management."

No regrets on veto of sex-education bill

Last January the Legislature approved a controversial bill severely curtailing what teachers could talk about in human sexuality classes. House Bill 363, which required teachers to stick to an "abstinence only" curriculum, drew vocal public protest. Ultimately, when the bill landed on the governor's desk for final approval, he vetoed it, risking the wrath of the right wing of his own party. But according to Herbert, he has no regrets about his decision.

"It certainly had its downside politically -- from the standpoint of the people who went after me, particularly in convention, and tried to make my life a little more difficult -- but it was the right thing to do."

Heading into the final stretch of the campaign, Herbert said he is hoping to see a big turnout. Full political participation throughout the process, he said, helps to mute extreme positions among Utah's increasingly diverse electorate.

"When people don't get involved, the extremes on the left or the right can have bigger sway in our caucus system. In fact, we had a big turnout this past caucus that, I think, helped to moderate and come back to where Main Street Utah really is. So, if you don't want to have extremism in politics, people need to show up at their neighborhood caucuses and make sure the delegates they elect represent their Main Street, whether it's the Main Street of Park City or the Main Street of Salt Lake City or the Main Street of Provo."