Former Utah GOP Chairman Thomas Wright is running for governor. Greg Hughes to announce bid next week.

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Thomas Wright says a few words during a news conference with second lady Karen Pence at the Utah Sate Capitol, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019.

Thomas Wright, who led the Utah Republican Party as chairman between 2011 and 2013, has entered the race to be Utah’s next governor.

In a lengthy Facebook post Thursday, Wright announced his campaign and wrote that he is running because the direction of the state matters to him, and that the results of the 2020 election will “echo down through many generations to come.”

“Some good people have entered the race,” Wright wrote. “But I am not seeing the right mix of experience along with imagination and energy, the sense of excitement about the unlimited possibilities of our future, that I believe Utah needs.”

Wright told the Tribune that he has the utmost respect for the other candidates running to be governor, but that he believes he has a unique skill set to lead the state into the next decade.

“We’re going to have a vigorous debate on the issues,” he said. “It’s a talented field so the voters are going to have great choices.”

Wright’s entry into the race will be followed next week by former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, whose spokesman Greg Hartley confirmed he would launch his gubernatorial bid Wednesday.

Hartley declined to comment further.

Wright’s announcement corresponded with the first day that candidates for partisan office can declare their intent to gather signatures, one of two routes under state law to qualify for a primary election.

Wright indicated that he will gather signatures, according to the state’s elections office, as did Republican gubernatorial candidates Spencer Cox, the state’s current lieutenant governor, Aimee Winder Newton, a Salt Lake County councilwoman and Jeff Burningham, a provo businessman.

Winder Newton pointed out on Thursday on Twitter that, if she makes it on the primary ballot, she would be the first woman candidate from a major party to appear on a primary or general election ballot. (Former Gov. Olene Walker was appointed and did not make it out of the 2004 Republican State Convention).

Former Utah governor and U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman has stated that he will collect signatures for the governor’s race in addition to seeking delegate support at the party’s nominating convention, but his declaration had not yet been confirmed by the elections office on Thursday.

One Democratic candidate, Zach Moses, has also declared his candidacy for governor.

Wright is owner, president, and principal broker of Summit Sotheby’s International Realty, based in Park City. He lives in Salt Lake City with his wife and four children.

He hasn’t run for elected office previously, but has been active politically in the Republican Party. In addition to serving as chairman of the state party, he is on the Republican National Committee and is a past chairman of the Salt Lake County GOP.

Wright said that because he is a business person, but also someone who is familiar with the political world, he knows the system and the players while maintaining a unique perspective.

“I can get in on day one and be effective because of the combination of those things,” he said.

Wright is also the son of Bob Wright, Republican nominee for governor in 1980 who was defeated by Scott Matheson. The elder Wright, who also had served as state GOP chairman, was a prominent attorney in Salt Lake City. He died in 2012 at the age of 76.

He is a member of the state Board of Regents, overseeing Utah’s institutions of higher education, since appointed by Gov. Gary Herbert in 2017. Previously, he served three years on the Dixie State University Board of Trustees.

He has been on the board of trustees for the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera since 2015.

He also is on the board of United Way of Salt Lake and has served as co-chairman of the Utah Debate Commission.

Huntsman, in a prepared statement posted to his campaign Facebook page, welcomed Wright to the governor’s race.

“This season should be one of talking about big ideas that will secure Utah’s future success,” Huntsman said. “I’m grateful to those who are willing to be a candidate and part of this vital conversation.”

Editor’s note: Former Gov. Jon Huntsman is the brother of Paul Huntsman, Tribune owner and publisher.