Zachary Moses says he has always been an unaffiliated voter, but he recently registered with the Utah Democratic Party to mount a long-shot bid for governor in 2020.
“I’m too much of a socialist to register as a Republican,” he said.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Tribune on Thursday, Moses — the 36-year-old CEO of a travel company that focuses on LGBTQ clients — outlined his motivations and plans for seeking the state’s highest office as a political newcomer, including a desire to disrupt the “Republican trifecta” that has long dominated state government, and to kick-start a series of ambitious public works projects, including a Hyperloop (a pneumatic tube for people), pumped water storage, and the addition of a “space port” to the plans for a massive inland distribution hub in Salt Lake City.
“In today’s day-and-age of Space X and Blue Origins, why doesn’t an inland port include a space port as part of it?” Moses said. “Maybe that space port is farther out into the west desert. But for God’s sake, we’re designing rockets in Utah, we’re designing and testing them in West Valley City and out of the Dugway Proving Grounds. We should have a space port.”
Moses grew up in Utah, and has also lived in California and Florida. He relocated his company, HE Travel, and returned to The Beehive State about five years ago, he says, to create jobs in the community and because he became “a little bit tired of enriching the landlords in Key West.”
He frequently referred to his travels — to Alaska, the United Arab Emirates, the Galapagos Islands, and other areas — as informing his ideas on topics like mineral extraction, wealth distribution and real estate development. And he added that for many Utahns who have rarely or never left the state, their perspective is fueled by the state’s conservative leadership and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Most people in Utah don’t have passports. Many people in Utah have never even left the state,” Moses said. “So largely, the perspective they have is just what our Republican trifecta and our Mormon oligarchy tell us.”
While several Utahns are known to be exploring a run for governor in 2020, only three have formally opened campaign disclosure files with the state. Those candidates include Moses and Republicans Spencer Cox (currently Utah’s lieutenant governor) and Jeff Burningham (a Provo businessman who says he is still exploring his options, despite hiring a campaign manager and conducting a statewide listening tour over the summer).
Utah has not had a Democratic governor since 1985, and Republicans currently hold all of Utah’s statewide elected offices.
Jeff Merchant, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, said Thursday that he is not yet acquainted with Moses, but that he expects a lot of candidates with a broad range of ideas to run for various offices under the party banner in 2020.
“We’ve got a lot of people who are interested,” Merchant said. “On the Democratic side, we’re ready for some change. We’re ready for new ideas in the state of Utah.”
Merchant said the state’s political environment has grown “stale,” and that he is disappointed with Utah’s Republican leaders, pointing to the recent reluctance of Utah’s federal delegation and other GOP officeholders to speak out against President Donald Trump’s racist tweets criticizing four congresswomen of color.
“I think that Utah Democrats have a lot to offer in bringing Utah back in line with the values that we as Utahns share,” Merchant said, “and to the policy priorities that most Utahns share.”
Other highlights from Moses’ interview with The Tribune.
• On transportation: “The freeway traffic is atrocious. It’s atrocious. When you’re in Salt Lake City and you don’t get on the freeway you’re like, ‘Oh man, Salt Lake doesn’t have any traffic.’ But the moment you’re a commuter, it’s hideous. We need a Hyperloop.”
• On replenishing the Great Salt Lake and other Western saltwater bodies through a system of aqueducts and seawater pumps: “If we just add a few feet of water — not enough to flood out I-80 or anything like that — to maintain a few feet of water in the salt flats, we could double, triple, quadruple the amount of evaporative space and increase our snowfall and rainfall, which in turn cleans our air. And then by controlling dust by putting water over the top of it we’d actually kind of kill two birds with one stone.
“This would be a monumental project, but no bigger than building a pointless wall on the southern border. So it sounds a little mad scientist-y, but I’ve talked to a lot of engineers about it and it’s actually completely feasible.”
• On wealth distribution from Utah mining operations: “When you look at the sheer volume of mineral wealth that’s leaving the state, Utahns should be every bit as rich as [residents of the United Arab Emirates]. But we’re not. That’s not me saying ‘Let’s exploit all those resources,’ that’s me saying ‘OK, we’re already exploiting these resources.’ Why are the local citizens not being compensated like other places where there’s this much wealth being pumped out.”
• On his decision to run for governor instead of lower office: “I want to go after the one seat that cannot be gerrymandered.”