Derek Petersen, KSL TV

Former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes announces run for governor

By Jacob Klopfenstein, KSL.com | Updated - Jan. 8, 2020 at 12:33 p.m. | Posted - Jan. 8, 2020 at 8:54 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes announced Wednesday he is running for governor.

Hughes formally announced the news Wednesday morning at Dee's Automotive in Millcreek.

Hughes is running as a conservative Republican with a campaign based around the slogan “Get It Done,” according to his website.

“We need a leader willing to make the important, difficult decisions,” Hughes said in a video posted on his website. “We have the potential to experience the best Utah ever. I’m living proof: It doesn’t matter where you came from. What matters is how hard you’re willing to fight for the things that you believe in.”

The video touts his experience as a legislator and his involvement in issues such as education reform, veterans affairs and homelessness.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is not seeking reelection to the office this year. The ever-growing field of gubernatorial candidates will now include Hughes, former Utah Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, former Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr., businessman Jeff Burningham and Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, currently represents Utah’s 1st Congressional District but will not seek reelection. He is also thought to be considering a run for governor, but has made no official announcements.

Democrat Zachery Moses is also running for the office.

Hughes on Wednesday remained confident he would stand out among the large group of candidates.

"It just got harder with me getting in this race," he said.

Hughes said his experience as a public servant has made him able to "spot the challenges" facing Utah. The future governor will need to be able to bring stakeholders to the table to address those challenges, Hughes said.

That is something he knows how to do, Hughes added.

"I believe there are challenges, I believe there are solutions to these challenges, and I believe the sky’s the limit in Utah," he said.

Hughes also pledged to be more specific when speaking on his policy proposals and stances on issues during the race.

"We can’t afford to talk in platitudes in this race," he said. "I’m not scared, I’m not going to lie to you. I will always tell you the truth."

A handful of others also spoke at the press conference to endorse Hughes's campaign, including several county commissioners from across the state of Utah and some business owners. Those to endorse him included former legislator and doctor Michael Kennedy and former Utah State Representative Mike Noel.

The press conference ended with Hughes banging a work hammer "gavel" on a tool bench at the auto shop. Some of his supporters in attendance chanted his "Get It Done" slogan after he spoke.

In an interview Wednesday with KSL's Doug Wright, Hughes said he would continue to focus on issues such as homelessness, rural Utah, and the inland port if he becomes governor.

When Hughes was involved with Operation Rio Grande, he set up an office near Pioneer Park in downtown Salt Lake City to be closer to the issue, he said. He was able to bring people together to address the problems in the area, Hughes added.

"We do have I think a safer community," he said. "The lawlessness has been addressed."

Hughes also pointed to the "cowboy hat brigade" of people from rural Utah who attended his campaign announcement Wednesday morning. He said he will work to spur economic growth in rural areas such as the Uinta Basin.

One way to bring economic and business activity to those areas will be to continue developing the Utah inland port, Hughes said.

"There is so much economic activity drawn to these places where smart infrastructure exists," he said.

The controversial project, planned for the northwest area of Salt Lake City, has been criticized by many who say it would bring air pollution, increased traffic and other problems to the area. The issue has been so contentious it has even spurred confrontations such as the now-infamous violent July protest in Salt Lake City.

Proponents say an inland port would be a boon to economic activity not only to the Salt Lake area, but also to the state as a whole.

Some state leaders have pointed to telecommuting as ways rural areas can still provide job opportunities for residents. Hughes stopped short of criticizing telecommuting Wednesday, but said there has to be more options for rural Utah.

"There’s got to be much more to rural Utah than calling in up to the Wasatch Front," he said. "There has to be economic growth. And we don’t want to see our rural communities shrink — they can’t. This is the heart and soul of our state."

Developing those rural areas could also help alleviate the Wasatch Front's growth issues in the long run, Hughes added.

"The Wasatch Front’s filling up," he said. "Wouldn’t it be nice that we don’t see that this would be the only place, so the population can see success and quality of life throughout the state and not just in the Wasatch Front."

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