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‘A Place In This Party For Everyone’: Utah GOP Delegates Elect Carson Jorgensen As State Party Chair

Newly-elected Utah GOP Chair Carson Jorgensen (right) shakes hands with a delegate during the state convention. Jorgensen was elected to chair the Utah GOP during the state convention on Saturday.
Emily Means
Newly-elected Utah Republican Party Chair Carson Jorgensen (right) shakes hands with a delegate during the state convention. Jorgensen was elected to the position Saturday.

Utah delegates elected Carson Jorgensen, a rancher and 2020 congressional primary candidate, as the new chair of the Republican state party. He won Saturday with 55% of the vote. As the new party leader, Jorgensen said he wants to keep Utah red by winning over younger voters and paying attention to small, local elections.

“When we look at teens and younger folks today, we notice they're always scrolling,” he said. “With what I've done in social media, my personal social media and for other campaigns and candidates, we are going to be able to reach these people. We're going to tailor policy and media to go to these younger folks.”

During his speech, Jorgensen said he wanted to focus on elections up and down the ballot, and focus on keeping county commissions red.

“The state looks good, but we're losing these little pockets here and there,” Jorgensen said during his speech. “I propose that we have no county left behind. Every county's going to take a different approach, every county has specific needs, and we must address those needs individually to each and every county.”

Stewart Peay, an attorney and current chair of the Utah County Republican Party, came in second place and garnered 45% of support from delegates. Tina Cannon, a former Morgan County councilwoman and former Morgan County Republican Party Chair, was knocked out of the race during the first round of voting.

Former Salt Lake GOP Chair Scott Miller dropped out of the race Friday. He said it was because there could be a lawsuit related to bullying allegations against his former communications director and he could have a conflict of interest as state party chair.

Derek Brown, the outgoing state party chair, decided not to run for re-election in order to spend more time with his family. During the convention, Brown touted his success in getting the party out of debt, raising over $1 million, unifying the party, and winning back the 4th Congressional District.

“My hope for you as a party, for us as a party, is that we will be unified, we will be focused,” Brown said. “We will understand that things are changing here in Utah dramatically,” referring to the state’s growth and potential for the state to turn blue.

Jordan Hess is the party’s new vice chair. He ran Sen. Mike Lee’s, R-UT, 2016 election and volunteered with Rep. John Curtis’, R- UT, campaign.

Olivia Dawn Horlacher is the Utah GOP’s new secretary. Mike Bird won re-election and will stay the party’s treasurer.

Masks and COVID-19 Precautions

Very few delegates and volunteers at the indoor convention, held at the Maverik Center, wore masks during the hours-long event. Some delegates wore t-shirts, buttons and sticks that read “See My Smile”, which is part of an anti-mask campaign.

“[It’s] so good to be here in person, maskless,” Bird told delegates.

Gov. Spencer Cox, who received a mix of cheering and booing while taking the stage, said by next Friday almost every public health restriction would be lifted. The one exception is masks in school, which will not be required starting in the fall.

Some Republicans have criticized Cox for the pandemic restrictions he has continued in 2021.

“I'm here to tell those of you that hate me one thing,” Cox said, “if you take the state with the lowest unemployment, the state with kids in school for the most days and the best economy in the nation and the lowest fatality rates ... that is the state of Utah.”

Utah has one of the lowest COVID-19 fatality rates, ranking 6th in the nation.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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