SALT LAKE CITY — A local businessman and an adviser to Gov. Gary Herbert on economic issues said Monday he is toying with a run at the governor's office in 2020.
If so, Spencer P. Eccles, would become one of three members of prominent Utah families who are rumored to want the governor's chair.
Others include Jon Huntsman Jr., current U.S. ambassador to Russia and former Utah governor, as well as Greg Miller, the son of the late Larry H. Miller and Gail Miller, who owns the Utah Jazz and many other businesses.
Eccles was interviewed on KSL Newsradio's "Dave & Dujanovic" show by guest host Kirk Jowers, former director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics.
Jowers said Eccles' name has been bandied about as a possible contender in the governor's race, and he asked him if he was considering a run.
Eccles said he's been "flattered" by people who have brought it up to him but did not answer the question directly. He stressed that there are a lot of critical issues in play for Utah, including education, the environment, tax reform and infrastructure.
"Those are all issues I am concerned about both for business but especially because I love this state," he said. "I love being here. We've been here for a number of generations now. What's the future? I am laser-focused on that in a number of different aspects."
He added that Utah is at a critical juncture, with key decisions facing state leadership.
"We have had great administration and management over the last decades, especially under Gov. Herbert leading us through that economic downturn," he said. "It was a scary time."
Eccles did say he has been closely eyeing the field of potential gubernatorial candidates and "is concerned."
Eccles was named by Herbert in 2009 to be head of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, at a time when the state and nation were in the clutches of the worst economy since the Great Depression.
Under Eccles' leadership, however, his office convinced several big corporate players to either expand or relocate to Utah, including Adobe, Black Diamond, Proctor & Gamble and eBay.
Eccles left the agency and went on to form the Cynosure Group, a private equity firm. The name Cynosure commemorates the sailing ship that brought the first Eccles family member from Scotland to America in 1863, according to its website.
The Salt Lake City-based company makes long-term equity investments across a range of industries, and Eccles is its managing partner.
He's been an active player in Utah's economic scene, including as chairman of the Governor’s Economic Council, vice chairman of the Utah Science Technology and Research (USTAR) initiative, vice chairman of the STEM Action Center, and a member of the Utah Capital Investment Board, which supports venture capital investment firms to help grow Utah’s innovative companies.
In 1997, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games chose Eccles to develop and oversee the premier Olympic downhill events as well as all of the alpine Paralympic competitions.
He has a Master of Business Administration from BYU's School of Management.
A source told the Desert News this springthat Huntsman is not ruling out a third run at being Utah's governor, after first being elected in 2004 and winning a second term four years later. His wife, Mary Kaye Huntsman, said on Instagram Saturday that the couple intends to "soon" announce their departure from Moscow.
Greg Miller is said to be considering a run at the office, as is Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources and senior member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Other candidates eyeing the governor's race as a candidate include Thomas Wright, former Utah GOP chairman, businessman Jeff Burningham, former House Speaker Greg Hughes and Aimee Winder Newton, a Salt Lake County councilwoman since 2014.
So far, the only candidate to officially announce and the one who is campaigning across the state is Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.
The fresh-faced farmer from Fairview, Sanpete County, is leading in the latest pollover Huntsman, but just slightly. The Salt Lake Chamber poll put Cox ahead among all likely voters, 33% to 32%.