Layton Republican Stuart Adams aiming to be next Utah Senate president

(Steve Griffin | Tribune file photo) Senate Majority Whip J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, speaks to the media as Senate leaders make themselves available for questions in the Senate president's offices at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018.

Utah Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, has his eyes on the top job in the state Senate.

Currently the chamber’s majority whip, Adams formally announced his intention to seek the position of Senate president in a Tuesday letter to his legislative colleagues.

“Our state has a bright future and I believe if we work together, our greatest days are still ahead,” Adams wrote. “Together, we can meet any opportunity or challenge.”

As majority whip, Adams is the third highest-ranked GOP senator in the state. Current Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, announced in March that he would not seek re-election this year, and Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, the Senate majority leader, has been absent from legislative duties this year due to health concerns.

Other senators have been rumored as potential successors to Niederhauser, but Adams is the first to formally announce his candidacy.

Adams, who has served as majority whip for six years, told The Tribune on Tuesday that he has been encouraged to run by colleagues in the Senate. He added that his family, particularly his 15 grandchildren, was a motivating factor in his decision to seek the Senate presidency.

“I think I can make a difference,” he said.

Asked about his policy priorities, Adams said he intends to spend the roughly three months between now and the Senate’s leadership elections meeting with his fellow senators to hear their input on the state’s needs. He said he feels strongly about the legislative process and that good ideas become better through debate and collaboration.

“I’d like to come up with some common-ground goals,” Adam said. “What those are, I don’t know yet.”

Last year, Adams was the Senate sponsor of a controversial bill lowering Utah’s blood alcohol content threshold for driving under the influence from 0.08 to 0.05. The bill, which takes effect in December, will set the strictest DUI standard in the United States.

Adams two years ago sponsored a controversial bill allowing the state to swap transportation funds for Community Impact Board money so the latter could invest $53 million in a deep-water Oakland, Calif., port to export Utah coal. That project has been tied up in court, so the money was never spent.

He also has sponsored legislation dealing with school grading and the creation and expansion of UPSTART, an at-home preschool software that is privately owned but developed through taxpayer funding. And in 2015, he sponsored SB296, the so-called “Utah Compromise” that coupled anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals with rights to religious expression.