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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Cooke named Vincent Rampton, the son of the late three-term Gov. Cal Rampton, as his running mate in the 2012 election.

Rampton, an attorney at the firm of Jones Waldo practicing real estate and environmental law, said it is daunting to follow in his father's footsteps.

"I have evaded this decision for 35 years now simply because my father's actual record, to say nothing of his memory which has grown in the minds of many over the years, is pretty intimidating," Rampton said. "I think it's been long enough. There are plenty of people in the state who have no recollection of Cal Rampton and maybe those who do will have another look at someone who [like him] approaches things a little differently."

Rampton said he and Cooke first met several weeks ago to discuss the possibility of teaming up for the gubernatorial bid. He said they agreed on the important issues — especially the need to fund education to drive economic growth — and he was struck by Cooke's leadership skills.

"We are not feeding the education effort the way we need to. We need to treat our teachers as professionals, because that's what they are. We need to shrink class sizes," he said, adding that that will ensure Utah's economic prosperity.

Cooke is a retired two-star general who commanded the U.S. Army Reserve for the Western region, worked in economic development for the state, and started a business that builds affordable housing.

"What made me decide that this was the time was just listening to General Cooke's ideas about bringing renewed vibrancy to the two-party system and his personal commitment and strength and charisma to bring people together," Rampton said.

Rampton said it reminded him of watching his father's administration and the way he created consensus in what was, even then, a predominantly Republican state.

"It has been increasingly difficult to watch a one-party system deteriorate into a fragment of a one-party system, where large out-of-state interests are dictating policy for the state of Utah," he said.

Michael Lyons, a political science professor at Utah State University, said that lieutenant governor picks rarely make much difference in the election, but the Rampton choice could provide a boost to the Cooke campaign.

"The first rule of electoral politics is establish name recognition, and there is hardly a better name than 'Rampton' in Utah politics," Lyons said. "You run into people all the time who have fond memories of Cal Rampton as governor, so I think it's a shrewd choice."

Vince Rampton graduated from the University of Utah and earned his law degree from Brigham Young University. He is married and has seven children. His wife, Janice Welling, is a cellist and a life-long Republican.

Rampton said several of his kids will be with the family at the state Democratic convention this weekend.

gehrke@sltrib.comTwitter: @RobertGehrke