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Utah governor’s race: Four GOP candidates vie for spot on November ballot

Four GOP candidates are on the ballot for the governor's race which has gained much interest from Utah voters, as this election guarantees a new state leader. (Utah State Capitol, credit Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The governor’s race has gained much interest from Utah voters, as this election guarantees a new state leader.  Gov. Herbert has held the seat since 2009 but announced he would not run for re-election in 2019.

That makes this the first election in Utah with an open governor’s seat in over a decade. 

As Utah voters seek a new state leader, four Republican candidates are vying for the nomination to appear on the November general election ballot: Spencer Cox, Jon Huntsman, Greg Hughes and Thomas Wright. 

Four candidates compete for spot in governor’s race

Whichever candidate emerges from the primary will face Democratic nominee Chris Peterson in the governor’s race. Peterson qualified for the general election during the party’s state convention after receiving 88.4% of the majority vote. Because Peterson received over 60% of the convention’s majority, the Democratic primary was canceled as he advanced straight to the November ballot.

Voters and candidates can expect results to be posted later than usual. Utah conducted an all-mail primary in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As a result, poll locations throughout the state were closed and the postmark deadline was extended to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Each of the GOP candidates separately joined Jeff Caplan, Boyd Matheson and Doug Wright on KSL NewsRadio just under an hour before polls closed Tuesday. 

Spencer Cox

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox qualified for the June primary during the party’s state convention April 25, receiving 52.6% of the vote. Cox also qualified through the signature-gathering method, obtaining the required 28,000 signatures to appear on the primary ballot. 

Cox told KSL NewsRadio his campaign focused on connecting with voters — visiting all 248 Utah cities and towns for rallies and service projects in the weeks and months leading up to the primary. Although his tour was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Cox said it was important to connect with voters and talk about their priorities. 

Cox said his top priorities are rebuilding the economy and building “the best education system in the nation.”

The lieutenant governor is running with Rep. Diedre Henderson as his running mate. She serves as a member of the Utah State Senate and has represented District 7 since 2013.

Jon Huntsman

Former governor Jon Huntsman qualified for the Republican primary through the signature-gathering method, obtaining the required 28,000 signature threshold just days before the deadline. 

Huntsman told KSL NewsRadio one of his goals as governor is to get the economy “out of the COVID hole” by doubling the state’s GDP within the next 10 years. He also said he wants to focus heavily on addressing mental health, noting “we should be declaring war on this insidious problem.” 

Despite the campaign challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Huntsman said he hopes Utahns participate in the election because “voting is an extreme privilege.” 

“This is a historical period, this is a historical election,” Huntsman said. “That’s why I think everyone needs to get out there to vote.”

Greg Hughes

Former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes said his top priorities as governor would be to protect Utahns’ constitutional rights — especially amid a global pandemic. 

“We have constitutional liberties that can not be taken away from us,” Hughes said. 

Part of Hughes’ campaign has been boasting of his early support of President Donald Trump, calling himself an “original supporter.” Hughes told KSL NewsRadio he is “proud to support this president” because he “has done great things for Utah.” 

Thomas Wright

Former chairman of the Utah Republican Party Thomas Wright also joined KSL NewsRadio Tuesday, calling Utah the greatest state in the country “because of the people.” 

As governor, Wright said he aims to deregulate the economy and lower taxes — allowing Utahns to “do what they do.” 

Wright said his three opponents have been serving in state government for years, bringing baggage with them from past decisions. Wright said he wants “to come in with fresh perspective” to serve the state.