Aimee Winder Newton, a Republican member of the Salt Lake County Council, formally announced her bid to be Utah’s next governor Wednesday, adding to an increasingly crowded field of hopefuls.
Winder Newton, who has worked for more than 25 years in local government, said she decided to run for the seat because she believes Utah has a “bright future” but faces a number of challenges when it comes to retaining quality of life while accommodating population growth.
“We have massive growth issues because of our success and so air quality, housing affordability and an investment in infrastructure for water and transportation is vital,” she told The Salt Lake Tribune, adding later that she wants to bring to the governor’s office “a significant planning component so we are making sure we’re working with different entities on planning for the future.”
She said another priority of her administration would be education, including addressing a statewide teacher shortage.
In a campaign video posted to YouTube, Winder Newton first describes herself as a mother of four and wife of 26 years before going on to list her professional and political accomplishments. She says she worked shoulder to shoulder with the Republican and Democratic members of the County Council to enact criminal justice reform, cut government spending and promote transparency.
She says she’s running for governor to do something, not to be someone.
“The work isn’t always pretty,” she says in the video. “Sometimes it takes blood, sweat, and a minivan full of gas.”
Winder Newton was reelected to her County Council seat in 2018 and would retain her position if she lost her bid for governor. She was first appointed to the council in 2014, filling a vacancy left by former member David Wilde, who resigned with a year left in his term to take a job with the county district attorney’s office. She also served as a spokeswoman for Taylorsville, which she helped fight to incorporate.
Winder Newton was the council chairwoman during last year’s controversy surrounding the Olympia Hills residential development. While she had signaled early support for the project, she was absent during the vote to approve it and later declined to override the veto of then-county Mayor Ben McAdams.
“I’m very much a proponent of smart growth,” Winder Newton said at the time, “and looking at ways for how we’re going to develop our county so that there’s room for affordable housing.”
As chairwoman, Winder Newton supported the unusual plan last year for approving a $58 million sales tax increase for roads and transit only after city councils representing a majority of the county population passed resolutions endorsing the tax. The 0.25% tax adds 1 cent to the cost of a $4 purchase for the county’s 1.1 million residents.
In August, Winder Newton was one of three council members who objected to a policy that gives preference to women- and minority-owned businesses in county contractual bidding. She argued that it was potentially unfair to men and offensive to suggest that female entrepreneurs require special treatment.
“We should not discriminate for or against someone based on their skin color and gender,” Winder Newton said at the meeting. “As we spend taxpayer dollars, we should be looking at who can perform the best service. I don’t believe gender and race should ever be the deciding factor as we choose who to do business with.”
Winder Newton’s announcement follows Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and Provo businessman Jeff Burningham as the declared candidates for Utah governor. Other Utahns preparing for, or considering, a gubernatorial run include former Gov. Jon Huntsman, who recently returned to the state after resigning as U.S. ambassador to Russia, former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes and former Utah Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright.
Editor’s note • Jon Huntsman is a brother of Paul Huntsman, owner and publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune.