Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has another challenger for 2024

A Democrat has not won a statewide election in Utah since 1996.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, as the House Judiciary Committee meets in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023.

Former Utah House Minority Leader Brian King is running for governor next year, hoping to put an end to four decades of Republican dominance in the Beehive State.

The Salt Lake City Democrat, in his eighth term in the Utah House, launched his gubernatorial bid Monday morning, offering an alternative to the state’s Republican-dominated politics.

“You’re not alone in feeling like your party has abandoned you. You aren’t alone in feeling that no party speaks for your priorities and values. I’m running for governor to offer an alternative – a government that prioritizes the public good over personal interests, delivering results, not rhetoric, and a culture of courage and character, not contention,” King said in an email news release.

During his 15-year tenure in the Utah Legislature, King has often been a thorn in the side of the Republican majority. In 2021, legislative Republicans wanted Gov. Spencer Cox to add legislation banning the teaching of critical race theory in the state’s K-12 schools to a special session agenda. When Cox refused, the House and Senate used an obscure legislative rule to pass a nonbinding resolution opposing CRT. In protest, King led a walkout of House Democrats when the resolutions came up for a vote.

King has a formidable political hill to climb in 2024 — the last Democrat to serve as Utah’s governor was Scott Matheson, who left office in 1985. Utah Democrats have lost 35 statewide elections in a row, with the last win by Jan Graham in 1996. Four years ago, Democrat Chris Peterson lost to Cox, a Republican, by nearly 33 points.

While King currently faces no opposition for the Democratic nomination, Republicans are gearing up for a fight over the GOP nomination in 2024. Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, is challenging Cox for the GOP nomination next year. Former Utah Republican Party Chair Carson Jorgensen also is considering a gubernatorial bid next year.

Candidates can officially file to run for office next year on Jan. 2.