Lt. Gov Gary Herbert is getting pressure to pick a conservative No. 2, but his top aide said Saturday that won't influence his choice.
"He's making up his own mind on this one," said Jason Perry, Herbert's transition director, calling the comments coming into Herbert's office "just part of the dance."
Herbert is expected to name his lieutenant governor at a press conference Wednesday. His inauguration is now set for Aug. 11, pending U.S. Senate confirmation of Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. as ambassador to China.
Last week, Herbert confirmed to the Deseret News both Senate Majority Assistant Whip Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, and Utah Transportation Commission Chairman Stuart Adams, another Davis County Republican, were on his list.
Also still under consideration are Salt Lake Chamber Chief Operating Officer Natalie Gochnour and Salt Lake County Commissioner Michael Jensen, although Jensen has said he likely wouldn't take the post.
The controversy appears to be centered around Bell, an attorney and former Farmington mayor who is widely viewed as a moderate. Before he was elected to leadership in the Senate, Bell carried a controversial bill for Huntsman that would have extended benefits to gay and other non-traditional couples. That bill failed, but Huntsman has since come out in favor of civil unions for those couples.
Groups such as the Eagle Forum are calling for Herbert to choose a lieutenant governor who shares his conservative values. The Eagle Forum alerted its members Friday about concerns surrounding Bell and urged them to contact Herbert's office.
"For me personally, I like Greg Bell a lot. I think he's great guy. He'd make a wonderful next-door neighbor," Eagle Forum leader Gayle Ruzicka said. "But we just have some disagreements on issues that deal with homosexual, same-sex relationships. Some of the things he's supported in the past would put us on a slippery slope. … We just don't want to go there."
Ruzicka said she likes Adams.
"He'd make a great lieutenant governor," she said. "He'd be more along the lines of Gary Herbert."
Ruzicka said she was not as familiar with Gochnour or Jensen, but was researching their stands this weekend.
Another conservative organization, Campaign for Liberty, delivered a letter to Herbert's office last week asking him to name someone "who will champion the Constitution, the rule of law, individual liberty, sound money, and state sovereignty" to please the group's 2,800 members.
Adams has said he's interested in the job. The former state representative is seen as a conservative, although he avoids that label.
"I've got a pretty good record. I'd let it speak for itself," he said recently. "I think I represent most of Utah. I'm just a normal guy."
Herbert also has heard from Salt Lake Chamber President Lane Beattie about Gochnour. Beattie ended speculation about a possible 2010 run against Herbert for the remainder of Huntsman's term by announcing he wouldn't enter the race.
Beattie also used the opportunity to push Gochnour for lieutenant governor, calling her "an incredible woman and incredible businesswoman," and he said he made his announcement when he did to help her candidacy. Gochnour worked for former Gov. Mike Leavitt and followed him to Washington, D.C., when he joined former President George W. Bush's administration.
Whomever Herbert names will have to be confirmed by the state Senate under a new amendment to the state constitution.
Herbert was added to the Huntsman ticket in 2004 to provide balance to the governor's moderate stands, which have grown increasingly liberal by Utah standards in recent months.
In addition to a new lieutenant governor, Herbert now also has to name a new general counsel. He had hoped to keep Huntsman's general counsel, Tani Downing, but she is moving on to a new job, Perry said.
"There's another opportunity for her," Perry said, suggesting it was within state government and would allow her to spend more time with her family. "She could have stayed. She still could."