The annual Wasatch County Republican Party Lincoln Day breakfast took place last Saturday. Candidates for governor delivered their messages to local members of the GOP.
At the February 22nd GOP fundraiser those in attendance heard from five of the seven candidates for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
Current Lt. Governor Spencer Cox was unable to attend but Wasatch County Council member Mark Nelson read remarks for Cox. He asked Nelson to emphasize two things.
“He’s the only candidate running that grew up in rural Utah, he still lives in rural Utah, and that has run a business in rural Utah,” Nelson continued. “He's not just asking for rural Utah votes; he is a rural Utah voter. Number two, education. This will be his number one priority as governor. We have important other priorities as well in this state, but by prioritizing education we can better address those issues. On the other hand, if we don't prioritize education, we can't truly solve any of our challenges.”
Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton spoke about her years of participation in local and regional governments. She also spoke about priorities of housing prices, and mental health issues among other items.
“As a small business owner, I understand why we need skilled and ready workers, and I want to have Utah be number one for the strongest and most nimble workforce in the nation if I'm elected governor,” Newton explained. “We can only do that if our public education system is strong and we need to fix our teacher shortage and I have a plan for that. I have worked in growth, economic development, education, and budgets in local and regional government for the last 25 years.”
Former Utah GOP Chair Thomas Wright spoke about his hope to empower local governments.
“We can tackle the affordable housing crisis,” Wright said. “We can tackle our air quality challenges. I live in Salt Lake City, I'm proud to be from the Wasatch Front and I'm going to prove—with congressman Bishop who is from rural Utah and flights for public lands and wins—that you can be a rural governor and still live along the Wasatch front. I'm running for governor because I love this state. I've never held public office; I have no ties to anyone in it. I can come in on day one with a fresh perspective. We can look at problems in a new way and we can build on the successes of the great leaders that have come before us.”
Utah Businessman Jeff Burningham said his three focuses are K-12 education, sustainable economic development, and representing rural Utah.
“There is no one in this race that understands Utah's economy the way I do,” Burningham continued. “Together with business partners we've grown businesses from zero to nearly 5 billion dollars of assets. We have created thousands of jobs in this state. The challenge’s here on the Wasatch Back and Heber Valley are about growth. Let's elect someone who has had their whole career in growth. Who has built companies from zero to large, that is my background. We need a politically unentangled leader of fresh perspective in our next governor.”
Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman spoke about citizenship service, aspirations for the state, and a focus on federalism.
“Our greatest existential threat is growth,” Huntsman explained. “If we lose control, we will pay the price. Our greatest internal threat folks is we become the buckle of the suicide belt of this nation. Our kids are killing themselves, and we’re too good as a land and as a people to let that be the case. Number five, Trump's going to win this election. It’d be a darn good thing to have a governor who gets along with the president. When you work in Moscow and you're on the phone and meeting with the president that creates a friendship and a sense of loyalty and ability to work together like few other things. I'll be able to work with the president.”
Former Utah Speaker of the House Greg Hughes spoke about his support of President Trump and his desire to grow the economy through fiscally conservative policies.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Hughes said. “Here's this deal, if it's impactful, if it’s going to make a difference it's going to be hard. All the easy things were already done. Good information drives good decisions, and never let fear drive those same decisions. Make sure that you're doing it for the right reasons. I’m battle tested. I've had the Twitter storms. I’ve had the social media attacks. I've had the mainstream media; the left media attack me. I've had special interest group threatened my district, my election. What I know—and I don't think you can know until you've been through those things—is that I don't buckle. That I stand and I lean into those issues.”
Businesswoman Jan Garbett was not in attendance. Garbett entered the race after the other six candidates indicated their support for the reelection of President Trump. Garbett said she wanted to give Utah Republicans who don’t support the president a choice.