Governor hopeful Jeff Burningham chooses Sen. Dan McCay to run on his ticket

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Rep. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, in 2017.

Gubernatorial candidate Jeff Burningham introduced Sen. Dan McCay as his running mate Wednesday evening, boasting that his aspiring lieutenant governor is “one of the most conservative legislators in Utah.”

During a digital town hall meeting, Burningham said he’d been searching for a running mate who had a track record of public service and legislative experience. And he said he and McCay share a commitment to free-market principles, an opposition to abortion and support for gun rights.

McCay said he signed on to Burningham’s ticket trusting that the Provo entrepreneur will be able to steer the state out of the economic turmoil that the coronavirus has caused.

“Utah needs a CEO right now, Jeff Burningham is that CEO,” McCay said in a prepared statement. "He has the business experience to get Utah’s economy growing again, without sacrificing our way of life.”

The campaign also released a video announcement that gave a playful acknowledgment to the current coronavirus pandemic, with McCay and Burningham measuring the distance between them and tossing hand sanitizer and toilet paper to one another.

“I hope this isn’t your biggest contribution to the team,” Burningham jokes as he catches a roll of toilet paper.

McCay, R-Riverton, has served in the Utah Legislature since 2012. This last legislative session, he sponsored a bill that would end elective abortions in Utah if the Supreme Court ever reverses its longstanding position on the procedure. The measure, which McCay on Wednesday described as a “stake in the ground” for Utah, contained exemptions for cases of rape or incest or if the life of the woman is at risk.

He also led a push to loosen the constitutional earmark on the state’s education fund, so lawmakers could spend this money on programs benefitting children and individuals with disabilities. That proposed constitutional change is slated to come before voters in November.

In 2014, he co-sponsored SB54, the legislation that created a dual pathway onto the ballot — through signature gathering or by winning support from party delegates at a caucus or convention. He’s since expressed regret over the passage of SB54 and made attempts to repeal it.

During the town hall meeting, Burningham said he hates the system established under SB54 and will work to undo the law if elected governor. McCay concurred, although he explained he originally supported the law as a way to stave off an effort to scrap the caucus-convention system entirely.

“What I found is that SB54 didn’t live up to its promises,” he said.

Most contenders in the GOP primary have already announced their lieutenant governor pick: Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has chosen state Sen. Deidre Henderson; former Gov. Jon Huntsman has tapped Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi; Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton is running with State Auditor John Dougall; former state GOP chairman Thomas Wright paired up with U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop; and businesswoman Jan Garbett is running with physician Joe Jarvis.

Former House Speaker Greg Hughes has yet to select a running mate.

Editor’s note: Jon Huntsman is the brother of Paul Huntsman, The Salt Lake Tribune’s owner and publisher.

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