Bruce Hough sees his business and political experience as a winning combination
Although it’s been almost 30 years since Bruce Hough served two terms as chairman of the Utah Republican Party, that doesn’t mean he stepped away from politics.
The entrepreneur and businessman has remained heavily involved as a national committeeman for the Utah GOP from 2008-2016 and again in 2020. He is also an executive committee member for the Republican National Committee.
It’s that combination of business acumen and political chops that Hough thinks will make a winning combination in the race for the GOP nomination in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District.
“I think having somebody with a business background is actually a pretty good option,” he said. “I like the idea that I could bring the opportunity to negotiate in an effective way with people, but it's done with respect.”
But in order to get to Washington, Hough must first face two other Republicans: special convention pick Celeste Maloy and former state lawmaker and U.S. Senate candidate Becky Edwards. Hough and Edwards chose to gather signatures to appear on the Sept. 5 primary ballot alongside Maloy.
Despite being well-known in Utah political circles and enjoying some broader name recognition as the father of celebrity dancers and actors Julianne and Derek, Hough isn’t resting on any laurels when it comes to his motivations to replace resigning Rep. Chris Stewart.
“I'm in this race because I have 10 children, I have 22 grandchildren, and there's a $34 trillion debt that is poised to rob the promise of America from my children, your children, my grandchildren, your grandchildren,” he said. “That's why I'm in it.”
The number one focus Hough would have in Congress, he said, would be reigning in government spending, which he sees as an “existential threat” to the country.
“How do we get the money out of Washington, back to our states to support our classrooms, to support our infrastructure and to do those things?” Hough said. “I would rather send less [money] to Washington. But with all that is going there, let's get it back to where it can be utilized more efficiently, because where government is closest to the people, it will be much more effective and efficient.”
On the campaign trail, Hough has promoted his abilities as a negotiator and talent for bringing people with differing views to the table.
“When we have a conflict, we do it in a respectful and productive way to come to solutions rather than with contempt or with contention,” he said. “I think those are skill sets that my business background really lends itself to so that we can actually accomplish things.”
Hough’s business career began in the satellite communication industry before founding Utah-based nutritional supplement company Nutraceutical in 1993. He now runs two management and leadership development companies.
But Hough doesn’t want his time in the boardroom to make CD2 voters feel like they can’t relate to him.
“I worked on my grandfather's farm as a kid and as a teenager,” he said. “I understand what ‘the sweat of your brow’ means, bucking bales of hay and hilling potatoes. But I've also worked in manufacturing and in service industries where I've helped my employees pay their mortgages and their rent and help their children be clothed and fed.”
CD2’s diverse geographic makeup — one that contains the urban center of downtown Salt Lake City, the booming St. George area in southern Utah and the rural western regions of the state — means Hough has heard a wide variety of concerns from voters.
“There are different issues that are of greater concern, for example, grazing and grazing leases,” he said. “That's not going to be a big issue necessarily in Davis and Salt Lake County, but it is in almost every other county [in the district].”
Other issues like education, water conservation and federal overreach on public lands are what he calls “universal principles.”
Although a strong advocate for the federal government staying out of Utah’s water issues, Hough said there is a place for federal cooperation — in particular, using federal funds to build desalination plants in downstream Colorado River states like California, leaving more water for Utah and its needs.
“That's an example of thinking innovatively, being a little bit of a disruptor using funds for infrastructure, something that actually has a very long-term benefit not only to California but to Utah,” he said.
If Hough is successful in his bid for Congress, he will enter a deeply-divided Washington with a Senate in the hands of Democrats, a GOP majority in the House and a fractured Republican Party with the far-right Freedom Caucus at odds with party leaders like Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.
For Hough, he said he won’t be joining in the vitriolic D.C. atmosphere.
“The first thing I will do is I will not yell at them,” he said of how he plans to approach cooperation in Washington. “I will treat everyone with respect … I will compromise all day long to get a good policy, but I will not compromise on the principles that underlies that particular policy.”
Ballots are already being mailed to voters for the Sept. 5 primary election. Only registered Republicans in CD2 can vote for one of the three GOP primary candidates. The winner will head to the Nov. 21 general election. Other candidates already in the general election include Democrat Kathleen Riebe, United Utah Party’s January Walker, Libertarian Bradley Green and Cassie Easley with the Constitution Party.
Utahns can find more information about how to vote at vote.utah.gov.