Utah Democratic Party Chair Jeff Merchant resigns

Merchant steps down citing health reasons effective Sept. 29.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Merchant unexpectedly announced his resignation on Thursday evening. He is stepping down for personal health reasons.

Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Merchant announced his resignation for personal health reasons. His resignation is effective Sept. 29.

“While today I humbly offer my resignation in order to attend to my personal health, the work that must be done in our state and across our nation to protect our most vulnerable communities will continue on,” Merchant said in a news release.

Merchant was first elected as chair in 2019. He was reelected to a second term earlier this year.

Party Vice Chair Diane Lewis becomes the party’s acting chair until the state central committee meets to pick Merchant’s replacement. That meeting can happen anytime between October and December but must take place before January.

“Diane is a storied leader in our state’s labor movement and Democratic Party, and I believe that under Diane’s leadership, our party will continue to build on the gains that we have made in 2020,” Merchant said. “I’m excited for this new chapter for the party and will remain a staunch supporter of our mission and our organizing.”

Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams praised Merchant’s service as the head of the party.

“I’m grateful to Jeff Merchant for his tireless service to elect Utah Democrats that serve the public with integrity,” McAdams said in a text message to The Tribune. “In this time of deep political division, it’s important to have leaders who work to bring us together and to be better. I look forward to working with Vice Chair Diane Lewis as she continues to build and unite Democrats working to build a better tomorrow for all Utahns.”

Utah Republican Party Chairman Carson Jorgensen was shocked by the news of Merchant’s resignation.

“I’ve spoken with him a few times,” Jorgensen said in a phone call. “He seemed like a nice guy, and I wish him well. I hope he’ll be okay because good health is always important.”

Derek Brown, Jorgensen’s predecessor as head of the Utah GOP, was surprised by the news.

“Although Jeff and I frequently disagreed on policies, he and I quickly became good friends during our service to our respective parties, appearing together in the media and even teaching college classes together,” Brown said. “He served during an incredibly difficult period of time, and left his part better than he found it.”

Merchant was unavailable for comment.