Democratic gubernatorial challenger Peter Cooke Thursday unloaded on Republican Gov. Gary Herbert for his administration that Cooke contends lacks transparency and oversight.
At a news conference on the steps of the state Capitol, the Democrat ran down a list he characterized as failings and missteps by Herbert, including mismanagement of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the breach of state health care records, a $13 million payoff to a contractor from the Utah Department of Transportation, the attempted appointment of an EnergySolutions official to the state Radiation Control Board and the appointment to the State Records Committee of a one-time critic of the Utah Government Records Access and Management Act.
"A day doesn't go by where I'm not asked about how this mismanagement continues," Cooke said. "That's why we need a two-party system. We need watchdogs."
But Thursday in his monthly news conference, Herbert said Utah law required an industry representative on the Radiation Control Board.
Last week he defended his appointment of former state Rep. Holly Richardson, R-Pleasant Grove, to the Records Committee. Earlier, the governor fired the director of the Department of Technology Services over the health care records fiasco. He recently appointed Salvatore Petilos to direct the DABC and "clean up the mess." And in August, Herbert said award of the I-15 contract was the right choice because the $1 billion-plus project was under budget and on time.
Nonetheless, Cooke lamented that Herbert's stewardship, including his economic policies, are failing and chided the governor for characterizing the state economy as healthy while unemployment hovered near 6 percent last month.
"We've plummeted from third to a tie for 10th in job creation this year," Cooke said. "Businesses are not investing in their workers because they are not confident in the current administration's economic leadership."
Herbert, however, said the state has created 65,000 jobs and unemployment of 5.8 percent is strong when compared nationally.
Finally, the Democrat blasted the governor for hiding during the political season. Cooke said that as he has traveled throughout Utah to attend election season meetings and debates, Herbert has been absent.
"Even if you're confident," he said, "you should have the humility to go before the public for these important political discussions."