University of Utah professor and gubernatorial hopeful Chris Peterson announced Monday that he was choosing Karina Brown, a Cache County resident and Medicaid expansion advocate, as his running mate for lieutenant governor.
Brown is the president of the Cache County Friends of the Children’s Justice Center Board and co-chairwoman of the Cache Celebration of Women’s Suffrage 2020, a group celebrating the state’s history of women’s suffrage. She ran unsuccessfully for the Utah House of Representatives in 2018 and was a signatory on the Proposition 3 Medicaid expansion ballot initiative that voters approved that same year but was later replaced by state leaders.
In a statement, Peterson called Brown "a natural leader and tireless community organizer.”
“Her public service to people in need, her leadership on recent successful measures, and her experience in rural small business development make her the right choice for our state," he added.
In a video announcing the pairing, Brown said she and Peterson will make a “powerful combination” for the gubernatorial ticket “because of our advocacy work.”
“His work for consumer advocacy and my work for health care advocacy is a powerful combination,” she said. “It will resonate with Utahns regardless of party because they will feel someone is fighting for them and we’re ready to fight for you.”
Peterson, who specializes in consumer protection, has said he wants to use his experience to bolster the state’s economy and assist families “still struggling to get by.”
The law professor was previously a finance official in the Obama administration, focusing on protecting military members from predatory lending and serving in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He was also an associate dean at the U.’s College of Law from 2009 to 2012.
Brown became active in the health care space after her mother died of an acute stroke in 2013, uninsured and just a few months short of qualifying for health benefits under Medicare.
Seeing Proposition 3 move through the process, from gathering signatures to getting on the ballot “and then for it actually to pass is amazing to me, and that’s why I’m so passionate about public service and I’m passionate about voting,” she said in the campaign video.
Peterson will likely face an uphill battle to the governor’s office in a state that has not had a Democrat in that seat since 1985 and where Republicans currently hold all statewide elected offices.
There are five other Democratic hopefuls running for the seat being vacated by Gov. Gary Herbert and a healthy slate of Republicans. State political parties will meet Saturday to choose the candidate or candidates who will make it on the ballot — and for Democrats, none of whom have gathered enough signatures to ensure their spot, that’s the only way to make it to the primary election.
A recent poll of 167 likely voters in the Democratic gubernatorial primary election showed Peterson ahead of his opponents, with 38% support. Next in line were Nikki Pino at 28% and candidates Neil Hansen and Ryan Jackson tied at 11%.
That survey, conducted for UtahPolicy.com by Y2 Analytics, has a margin of error of plus or minus 7.6 percentage points and was conducted March 21-30.