What kind of Republican is Spencer Cox?

Spencer Cox is about as run-of-the-mill of a Republican as Utah can produce.

Governor Gary Herbert has nominated Spencer Cox to replace Greg Bell as Utah’s new Lieutenant Governor. Few outside the Legislature had heard Cox’s name before the governor’s announcement. Even within the Legislature, few knew his name before he began his legislative service less than one year ago.

Today the Legislature will consider the governor’s nomination and, in all likelihood, confirm him as Utah’s new Lieutenant Governor. The Tribune ran a good biographical profile of Cox today. I thought I would add a quick look at his Legislative voting record.

Because Cox served in the Utah House, we can use voting records to get a feel for what type of political ideology Cox might espouse. Using all the “ayes” and “nays” cast in the Legislature, we can apply a well-tested method to line up all the legislators from most liberal to most conservative. (You can read more about how these scores work here.)

On a scale from -100 (more liberal) to +100 (more conservative), Spencer Cox rates a +28.4. This places him almost exactly at the center of the House Republican caucus. For House Republicans, the average (mean) score was +28.7, and the median was +27.4. Cox’s voting record makes him most similar to Brad Dee (House Majority Leader), followed by Mike McKell (Cox’s brother-in-law) and Dean Sanpei (House Rules Chair). Indeed, Cox’s record is almost indistinguishable from any of these Representatives.

The chart below gives another way of considering how Cox’s voting ideology lines up with other legislators. I grouped ideology scores for the 75 Representatives who served in 2013 into bins 10 units wide (the left column in the table below). In the right column, I wrote one “D” or “R” for each legislator within each bin. For example, there were three Democratic Representatives with scores between -100 and -90, hence the “DDD” in the right column. Cox’s score is highlighted in red, in the politically safe area near the center of the House Republicans.

Bin Legislators
-100 to -90 DDD
-90.1 to -80 DDDD
-80.1 to -70 DDDDDD
-70.1 to -60 D
-60.1 to -50
-50.1 to -40
-40.1 to -30
-30.1 to -20 RRR
-20.1 to -10 R
-10.1 to 0 RRRRR
0.1 to 10 RRRRRRR
10.1 to 20 RRRRRRRRRR
20.1 to 30 RRRRRRRR
30.1 to 40 RRRRRR
40.1 to 50 RRRRRRRRR
50.1 to 60 R
60.1 to 70 RRRRRR
70.1 to 80 R
80.1 to 90 RRRR
90.1 to 100

What do we conclude? From his legislative voting record, it seems Spencer Cox is about as run-of-the-mill of a Republican as Utah can produce. Voters have no more reason to love or fear him than they would any typical Utah Republican official.

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About Adam Brown

Adam Brown is an assistant professor of political science at Brigham Young University and a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. You can learn more about him at his website.
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