SALT LAKE CITY — Thomas Wright, a former Utah GOP chairman, announced Thursday he is running for governor.
“Some good people have entered the race. But I am not seeing the right mix of experience along with imagination and energy, the sense of excitement about the unlimited possibilities of our future that I believe Utah needs,” Wright said in a Facebook post.
He joins a growing list of Republicans seeking to succeed outgoing Gov. Gary Herbert, who is not running for reelection after more than a decade in office. Already, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, former Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr., businessman Jeff Burningham and Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton are in the race.
Former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes is expected to announce his bid for governor next week, and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who is not running again for the 1st Congressional District seat he’s held since 2003, is seriously considering the race. A Democrat, Zachery Moses, has also said he’s a candidate.
Wright, president and principal broker of Summit Sotheby’s International Realty since 2008, has served two terms as chairman of the Salt Lake and Utah Republican parties, and as Utah’s GOP national committeeman, a post he resigned Thursday, along with the co-chairmanship of the non-partisan Utah Debate Commission.
He made a point of saying he has not held public office.
“This is a time to reach out beyond government to find answers. 2020 is a time when we need to look ahead and build on our strengths, for sure, but also to take an honest look at future challenges,” he said, suggesting that includes looking to cut the state budget as well as restructuring government to be more efficient.
“I do not come from government and I have never held public office, but I have volunteered for the past 10 years to help get good people elected and then hold them accountable when they are,” Wright said, adding that his “life’s focus has been on building a successful business and raising a solid family, which I have done.”
That, he said, “is a good mix for Utah’s next governor.”
Wright also questioned in his announcement whether rural Utah is being left behind economically.
“Have we paid enough attention, and more importantly, taken aggressive enough action to build the future of our rural counties and towns? With today’s communications and transportation, there is no reason that any of our communities should be deprived of prosperity in a boom economy,” he said.
The first question most people have asked about him getting in the race, Wright said, is, “‘Why would you want to run for governor?’ My answer? Because Utah matters to me. The direction of our state matters; the prosperity of Utah’s people matters. The quality of our air and of our kids’ education matters. Utah is my home.”
Later, he said on KSL Newsradio that government reform is at the top of his list, followed by dealing with the impacts of a growing population. Wright said in that interview he can offer voters a “fresh perspective” because he doesn’t have alliances and doesn’t “owe anybody anything.”
He declined to talk to KSL about his position on the tax reform package passed last month by lawmakers meeting in a special session of the Utah Legislature at the urging of Herbert and Republican legislative leaders.
A referendum now circulating to repeal the decrease in income taxes and increase in sales taxes on food, gas and some services has been signed by Burningham, Winder Newton and Huntsman. Cox has said he opposed the tax reform legislation but can’t comment on the referendum because his office oversees elections.
Wright said he’ll make his position clear in the future.
“This is my announcement day,” he said. “We’re going to get into the issues. We’re going to talk about the issues. We’re going to take a deep dive and I’m going to be more than willing to share my position on that.”