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Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has another GOP challenger

Carson Jorgensen is the second Republican to launch a campaign against Cox in the 2024 primary. Rep. Phil Lyman is also aiming to lead Utah.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Outgoing Utah Party Chairman Carson Jorgensen leads the Utah Republican Party 2023 Organizing Convention at Utah Valley University's UCCU Center on Saturday, April 22, 2023. Jorgensen is challenging Gov. Spencer Cox in Utah's 2024 GOP gubernatorial primary.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has drawn a pair of challengers for the Republican nomination this year. Former Utah GOP Chairman Carson Jorgensen launched his primary challenge to Cox on Wednesday morning. He joins Blanding state Rep. Phil Lyman in the race.

Jorgensen, a sheep rancher, says he threw his hat in the ring because he’s worried about Utah’s direction.

“We need to take a strong look at where people want Utah to be in ten years. I believe the path we’re on, with big increases in the state budget and some of the other ideologies and things that continue to happen in education across the state, the people are going to have to evaluate if there’s a problem or not,” Jorgensen says. “If they want change, we’re going to give them somebody else on the ballot to look at.”

Jorgensen believes Cox’s support among Republican voters is not as solid as it may appear. He points to the 2020 GOP primary election, where Cox inched past other candidates.

“The governor in there right now won [the GOP nomination in 2020] with 36% of the vote. I don’t think that’s a definitive answer on who should govern the state,” he said. “I think it’s time we look at that.”

Cox defeated three other Republican candidates in 2020 to win the GOP nomination, prevailing over Jon Huntsman Jr. by 6,319 votes.

Both Jorgensen and Lyman are staking out territory to Cox’s political right. Lyman’s campaign social media accounts are replete with far-right talking points about immigration and unfounded conspiracy theories about election fraud.

Cox says he’s conscious that Jorgensen and Lyman will attempt to portray him as insufficiently conservative for Utah Republicans, but he plans to stick to a more positive message.

“They’ll do what they do. I’m worried that they’ll look to tear down the state, and I don’t think that’s good for anybody,” Cox said during a brief interview at the Capitol.

Lyman and Jorgensen took umbrage at Cox’s assertion that their criticisms of him would somehow damage Utah.

“This is kind of along with his ‘disagree better’ push. It’s Spencer Cox saying you can disagree with me on my terms, but if you go in a different direction, you’re no longer being civil,” Lyman said. “That’s the way he approaches most disagreements. It’s only better if it’s disagreeing with him.”

Jorgensen brushed off Cox’s concerns that his campaign could somehow cause damage to the state.

“My grandpa taught me something a long time ago,” the rancher said. “There are two ways to build the tallest building in town — you either build the tallest building or tear down every other building. I’m not in the tearing down business.”

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