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Utah Republican Gubernatorial Field Grows To Six, As Former Utah GOP Chair Thomas Wright Jumps In

Sonja Hutson
Thomas Wright, former Utah GOP chair, has jumped into a crowded Republican primary for governor.

Updated 11:48 a.m. MST 1/3/20

Former Utah Republican Party Chair Thomas Wright announced Thursday he is jumping into the increasingly crowded governor’s race. 

He joins five other Republican candidates: Lt. Gov Spencer Cox, former Gov. Jon Huntsman, Salt Lake City Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, businessmen Jeff Burningham and Jason Christensen. 

“I don't think it's too late,” Wright told KUER in the Utah State Capitol rotunda. “It's 2020. The race is in 2020. I have the ability to go out and to meet people and to get my message out, and to have them get to know me.”

Thursday was the official start of the 2020 campaign season. It was the first day for candidates to file their intent to gather signatures. Candidates for governor need 28,000 signatures, or to be nominated at the party’s state convention, to get on the primary ballot. 

Wright was one of four gubernatorial candidates Thursday to file their intent to gather signatures.

Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, said you’d have to go back to 2004 to find a Governor’s race this crowded.

“We've not really had an open seat for governor in over a decade,” Perry said. “People kind of just do the math. They say ‘I might have a chance. This may be my best shot ever.’”
Wright served as the chair of the Utah Republican Party, the Salt Lake County Republican Party, and a member of the Republican National Committee. He currently sits on the Utah State Board of Regents. Outside of government, Wright is the president and principal broker of Summit Sotheby’s International Realty, which sells luxury real estate in Park City, Deer Valley Resort and along the Wasatch Front.
“I know the players. I know how the process works,” Wright said. “But I also bring that fresh perspective of having never held elected office. So because of that, I think I'm a fantastic choice because it's the best of both worlds.”

Wright declined to get into specifics on policy proposals, or his position on the controversial and recently passed tax reform law. But he said he wants to focus on reprioritizing government spending, addressing teacher pay and helping rural Utah economies.

“We need to look at state government from top to bottom,” he said. “Every agency, every line item of the budget, we need to identify efficiencies, ways that we can do better, and reprioritize our tax dollars.”

Republican candidate for governor and businessman Jeff Burningham has floated a similar proposal. 

Wright also said Thursday he wants to shift focus from economic development on the Wasatch front to economic development in rural Utah. 

“We need to make sure that all Utah has those opportunities, because not everybody wants to live on the Wasatch Front,” Wright said. “Our rural communities have a fantastic way of life, and they want to stay there. And they should be able to.”

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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