On April 25, the Utah Republican Party will choose up to two candidates for Utah governor to be added to the primary June 30 ballot. Thomas Wright, Spencer Cox and Jon Huntsman have already gathered enough signatures to be on the primary ballot. Historically, delegates don’t like candidates who use the signature route to the ballot.
The other candidates vying for the chance to be on the ballot include Jeff Burningham, Aimee Winder Newton, Greg Hughes and Jan Garbett. The decision is important because, historically, the GOP governor candidate wins. Some of the lieutenant governor candidates would seem to be better governor candidates.
Former House Speaker Greg Hughes is familiar with budgets. He successfully fought against Gov. Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan. A version was eventually approved years later for drug addiction treatment and finally, after a big fight, for law-abiding citizens. It is ironic that Medicaid expansion is so important now in fighting and treating the COVID-19 virus.
Hughes, with all due respect, also implemented, almost unilaterally, Operation Rio Grande, which spread out the criminal element into other communities and resulted in the county police chiefs calling it Operation Leaf Blower. He also supported many tax increases and projects that benefited him as a developer.
Realtor Thomas Wright was one of the most successful state GOP chairs in the last decade. His lieutenant governor choice, former Utah House speaker and congressman Rob Bishop, would seem to be a better candidate for governor than Thomas Wright.
I am not sure why Jan Garbett wants to run as a Republican, as she has run for office with other parties.
I don’t know Jeff Burningham. But I do know and respect most of the position of his running mate, state Sen. Dan McCay, especially on taxes. He fought against many tax increases over the last few years in the Legislature and I have to say that McCay would be a better governor candidate than Jeff.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has led Utah’s effort to solve the homeless problems, but demolished the Road Home before enough beds for the homeless were available. He spends four hours a day driving to and from his home, but I want a governor who will spend 100% of their time working for us and not driving for half of the day. His lieutenant governor choice, state Sen. Deidre Henderson is a great candidate who I think would be a better candidate for governor. She is famous for breaking the U.S. contact lens monopoly and her bills rationalized food truck licensing.
Jon Huntsman was a good governor. But his acceptance of other national jobs outside of Utah makes me question his enthusiasm for the state. His running mate seems to be a good choice, Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi.
Finally, there is Aimee Winder Newton, who I have worked with for years while she was on the Salt Lake County Council. She has been very active in GOP meetings, unlike other candidates. She knows the transportation problems that exist in the Wasatch Front. She is also familiar with the state’s unfunded mandates that shift criminal prosecution and incarceration to the counties which results in the jail and DA becoming overwhelmed by criminals who should be in the state prison. She has the experience fighting, and knowledge of the problems that, federal and state unfunded mandates bring to local government. She also has chosen a running mate who could have been a great candidate for governor, State Auditor John “Frugal” Dougall. He has investigated and reported on many Utah government problems and inefficiencies that cost taxpayers money.
Although there are many great candidates for Utah governor at the State GOP Convention, I will be supporting Aimee Winder Newton and John Dougall. I want someone who understands and has been involved in the problem solving of transportation, budget and justice issues in Salt Lake County. I want a team that makes Republicans look good.
George Chapman is a GOP state delegate, a former candidate for Salt Lake mayor and writes a blog at georgechapman.net.