Former House Speaker Greg Hughes will run for governor alongside Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson, former public lands adviser to Sen. Mike Lee.
A Tuesday news release announcing the pick highlighted Iverson’s commitment to low taxes and “love of country, God, the U.S. Constitution and the western way of life.”
“Victor is a proven leader with a commitment to conservative principles,” Hughes said in a Tuesday news release. “He has kept Washington County strong and prepared, with the lowest tax rate in the state and a full year of rainy-day funds in reserve."
Iverson is also past president of the Utah Association of Counties and served on the La Verkin City Council according to a news release making the announcement.
Washington County’s clerk/auditor, Kim Hafen, said Tuesday that the county currently has the state’s second-lowest general fund tax rate, but that he expects it will have the lowest in the coming year.
During a Tuesday morning interview on KSL radio, Hughes said Iverson has roots in rural Utah and understands the needs of state residents who live off the Wasatch Front. If elected, Hughes said, his administration would work to make sure rural areas share in the state’s prosperity and economic opportunity.
Iverson agreed, saying he and Hughes are a “Utah-unifying ticket.”
Hughes’ announcement comes in the run-up to the April 25 Republican nominating convention, where he’ll have to win over party insiders if he’s to appear on the primary ballot. During his radio interview, Hughes noted that he did not try to qualify for the ballot by gathering signatures and hoped his decision to trust the convention process might give him an edge with party members.
“I am laying my fate at the feet of the delegates,” Hughes said.
In a prepared statement, Iverson called Hughes the leader Utah needs during challenging times.
“He is the conservative candidate with the proven ability to get things done, no matter the challenge,” Iverson said. “He will represent all of Utah well.”
Iverson is serving his second term on the Washington County Commission and is currently its chairman. He has backed some controversial issues while on the commission, such as building a road across a tortoise preserve and constructing the Lake Powell Pipeline — projects which enjoy broad support among local residents.
Nearly two decades ago, when Iverson was a La Verkin councilman, the city drew national attention for passing an ordinance that banned United Nations activities within their jurisdiction. While Utah’s attorney general ultimately told the city the ordinance was unconstitutional, Iverson said he’d like to see other cities follow La Verkin’s lead and join the anti-U.N. movement.
“We want to frame the debate,” Iverson said, according to a Tribune story from 2001. “We want to get people talking.”
Still, he acknowledged that the ordinance was largely symbolic and would not be enforced.
“I don’t have any grand illusions that I’m re-signing the Declaration of Independence,” he said.
Iverson has been married to his wife, Audrey, for 26 years. The couple has five children and a granddaughter.
Hughes is the last GOP candidate to choose a running mate. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is running with Sen. Deidre Henderson; former Gov. Jon Huntsman with Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi; venture capitalist Jeff Burningham with Sen. Dan McCay; Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton with Utah Auditor John Dougall; former Utah GOP chairman Thomas Wright with Rep. Rob Bishop; and businesswoman Jan Garbett with Dr. Joe Jarvis.
It appears Garbett has been eliminated from the race, since she failed to gather enough signatures to appear on the ballot and decided against pursuing a party nomination. However, on Tuesday, her campaign filed a lawsuit against the state over the signature issue.
Editor’s note • Paul Huntsman, a brother of Jon Huntsman, is chairman of The Salt Lake Tribune’s nonprofit board of directors.