Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson resigning to run for Senate

Wilson’s resignation comes just days after Sen. Mitt Romney announced he would not seek another term next year

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson listens to oral arguments for a case challenging the state’s congressional districts before the Utah Supreme Court in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, July 11, 2023.

Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson announced Monday he is stepping down, most likely to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Mitt Romney.

In an email statement announcing his resignation, Wilson said serving in the Utah House was “the honor, privilege, and opportunity of a lifetime.”

“I did not anticipate the lifelong impact of my decision to run for public office nearly 14 years ago. My service in the Legislature stems far beyond the policies passed and progress achieved. I have built lifelong friendships and come to love and appreciate the people of Utah. I am excited for my next chapter and have full confidence in my peers in the House, Senate, and executive branch to continue making Utah the best place to live, learn, work, and play,” Wilson’s statement read.

Wilson said he was resigning because he didn’t want to try and split his focus between the Legislature and campaigning.

“I can’t serve the people in my district and also serve as Speaker of the House and simultaneously do that and run at the same time. I thought it was in the best interest of the Legislature and the people of Utah to have a full-time speaker of the house,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s resignation is effective Nov. 15.

Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, offered praise for Wilson following Monday’s announcement.

“We have successfully been able to navigate challenges and accomplish great things for Utahns and Utah. I commend him for his service and dedication to the people of Utah,” Adams posted to social media.

Former House Majority Leader Francis Gibson offered similar praise for Wilson’s tenure at the Legislature.

“I think Speaker Wilson has served Utah very well,” Gibson said in a text message to The Tribune. “I have worked with him for over a decade, and his decisions are always through a ‘what’s best for Utah’ lens.”

With Monday’s announcement, Wilson becomes the fourth Utah legislator to resign this year, joining Sen. Jake Anderegg, Sen. Karen Mayne and Rep. Quinn Kotter.

Wilson’s resignation was widely expected, especially following Romney’s announcement last week he would not seek another term in office.

Wilson was first elected to the Utah House in 2010. He has served as Speaker of the House since 2019.

Wilson officially became a candidate for Romney’s seat in April, raising more than $1 million since he jumped into the race. He has also lent his campaign $1 million since then.

Within an hour of Wilson’s announcement, his nascent U.S. Senate campaign sent out an email inviting supporters to a “special event” on Sept. 27 in Draper where he is expected to officially launch his bid.

Wilson is not the first Utah House speaker to resign in the middle of his term to seek a seat in Congress. Former Speaker David Clark resigned in November of 2011 to run for the 2nd Congressional District, losing the Republican nomination the following year to Chris Stewart.

Along with Wilson, several candidates are said to be considering running to replace Romney. They include Congressmen Blake Moore, John Curtis and Burgess Owens, current Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, former Utah GOP Chairman Thomas Wright, Roosevelt Mayor J.R. Bird and entrepreneur Brad Bonham.

Another potential candidate who could challenge Wilson is anti-human trafficking activist Tim Ballard. However, his political fortunes took a hit last week when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints publicly condemned Ballard for “morally unacceptable” behavior, saying he “betrayed” his friendship with President M. Russell Ballard.

The only other candidate in the race to replace Romney so far is Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs.

Wilson is the second top House Republican leader to step away from Capitol Hill in the past two years, following Gibson’s surprise resignation in 2021.

Wilson’s exit will shuffle the House leadership team ahead of the upcoming 2024 Legislature. Current House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, is widely expected to assume the speaker’s gavel from Wilson after he leaves.

Republican delegates in House District 15 will select Wilson’s replacement in the coming months.