After two rapid-fire campaigns to be Utahns’ voice in Washington, D.C., former Republican state lawmaker Becky Edwards often hears the question: “What’s next?”
In 2022, Edwards challenged U.S. Sen. Mike Lee in a primary election, and this year she jumped into a special election for the 2nd Congressional District. She made a name for herself in both of those races as a more moderate option — a Republican candidate who declined to vote for previous President Donald Trump.
Now, she’s stepping away from running — at least for 2024 — to launch a political action committee that supports “solution-oriented” candidates vying for office.
Governing Group PAC, organized in October and announced Tuesday, will back Republicans and unaffiliated candidates who “champion civil discourse,” whether they’re incumbents who’ve demonstrated that characteristic or political newcomers who have become tired of partisan division.
“I‘ve had so many people say, ‘I don’t have a thousand friends, I don’t have 50 friends who are going to help me,’” Edwards said. “Well, we’ve got those friends, and we’re going to introduce you to your friends. Some of those will be dollars, and some will be real people who are going to help.”
The idea came during her Senate campaign, Edwards said, when she met Utahns throughout the state who were frustrated by political conflict keeping policymakers from solving problems. The ex-candidate said she heard that sentiment again during her congressional campaign, and “thought it would be really nice” if there was a group that supported candidates who represented a different kind of leadership.
“It’s a natural outgrowth to things that I learned in conversations I had during these these last couple of years,” Edwards said.
The project will start by wading into municipal and legislative races, and although the PAC may back candidates of any gender, it will focus on empowering women in politics.
Women are underrepresented in political office throughout the country, but that divide widens in conservative Utah.
According to the most recent report from Utah State University’s Utah Women & Leadership Project, 26% of state lawmakers in Utah during the 2023 session were women — lower than the nationwide 32.7%. That number is much smaller among the Beehive State’s Republican lawmakers, 13.8% of whom were women last session.
“What I’m seeing from so many women candidates is this very similar approach [to what the PAC is looking for],” Edwards said. “They spent their lives professionally, in their communities, in their families solving problems, sitting at the table until the work is done.”
Edwards plans to leverage the financial and volunteer networks she built during her recent campaigns to help candidates. She’ll also offer mentorship rooted in the experience she gained since first running for the Legislature in 2008 and in her professional background as a social worker.
All of that support will be especially helpful for Republican candidates who, like Edwards in the past, would struggle to get their name on a ballot by just going to the nominating convention — those who need the money and workforce to collect signatures. “Both of those are a high barrier,” Edwards added.
“Wherever the barrier is, we want to slash those down so good people can get on the ballot and good people can win,” Edwards said.
In its first year, Governing Group PAC has a goal to raise $50,000. And while the PAC isn’t formally endorsing anyone in the 2024 contests yet, Edwards said she’s had conversations with “several candidates.”
“I’m so enthusiastic on our ability to be a game changer, not just for one election cycle, but we’re in this for the long haul — we’re in this to change and improve the political dialogue going forward,” Edwards said.