SALT LAKE CITY — With Utah Gov. Gary Herbert deciding not to run for a third term, the state will have a new chief executive for the first time since 2009. What began as a wide-open race likely focused on strengthening Utah’s economic standing had now to who is best poised to lead the state’s response to and recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Widespread civic upheaval over racial inequalities has also moved to the foreground.
- Spencer Cox, Utah lieutenant governor (Republican)
- Chris Peterson, University of Utah professor (Democrat)
- Aug. 28: Jon Huntsman Jr. ends speculation on write-in campaign for Utah governor, saying he will not file
- Aug. 7: Spencer Cox has ‘big lead’ over Chris Peterson in Utah governor race
- July 31: Cox, Peterson set for Sept. 29 faceoff after Utah Debate Commission releases schedule
- July 24: Will Utah governor’s race start heating up soon?
- Utah Debate Commission governor debate: Sept. 29
- Election Day: Nov. 3
- Utah’s coronavirus response: The biggest curveball for political campaigning is one that none of these candidates could have been prepared for when they entered the race and will affect every other area of policy up for debate. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox’s role as leader of the state’s coronavirus response task force gives him greater visibility but also opens him to criticism from other candidates over the state’s response. Meanwhile, mask-wearing has become a political question of its own as some local governments move to mandate them while others view that as governmental overreach.
- Protests for racial equity and police reform: The death of a black man, George Floyd, in the custody of Minneapolis police set off weeks of protests across the country, including Utah. An incoming governor will be asked how they would respond to the protests and how they intend to improve the treatment of minorities by police and address racial inequalities in the state.
- Economic development:Salvaging Utah’s economy from the ravages of a global pandemic that has caused massive workforce disruptions will be a key point for each candidate, despite the state’s traditional high rankings in economic indicators.
- Air quality: Improving air quality in the Salt Lake Valley and the state while moving forward on the controversial inland port, which activists believe will exacerbate the problem.
- Federal land issues: Partisan battles over local control versus federal protection have grown in the past several years, especially after the designation and then shrinking of Bears Ears National Monument.
- Education: Lawmakers promised historic investment into state education funding during the 2020 Legislative session, but the coronavirus pandemic is threatening those resources. Meanwhile, lawmakers are seeking a constitutional amendment to gain more flexibility in spending money that was previously designated solely for education.
- Support for Trump? All of the Republican candidates said they will support President Donald Trump's reelection this November, though Cox had previously been critical of him. Other candidates in the party attacked Cox for not being supportive enough of Trump. This didn't appear to hurt Cox among Republican primary voters; Utah voters overall are more skeptical of the president and gave him the smallest margin of victory of any state he carried in 2016 — an unusually low number for a reliably Republican state in presidential elections.
- 2016: Utah Gov. Gary Herbert says he will not run again. Herbert said again in 2018 that he had “no plans” for a third term, but he appeared to be reconsidering in early 2019 when he said he was receiving “strong encouragement” to run again. He ultimately decided against it and his lieutenant governor entered the race.
- May 14, 2019: Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox declares candidacy.
- Nov. 14, 2019: Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. declares his intention to win back his old job.
- Jan. 8, 2020: Former House Speaker Greg Hughes announces his run for the state’s highest office.
- Jan. 16, 2020: Retiring Utah Congressman Rob Bishop announces he will not be a candidate for governor but makes a surprise entrance as an early choice for running mate by businessman Thomas Wright.
- March 4, 2020: University of Utah professor Chris Peterson announces his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor.
- April 14, 2020: Jan Garbett sues the state to be placed on ballot because of hindered signature-gathering during the coronavirus pandemic; she drops her suit on May 4.
- April 25, 2020: Chris Peterson emerges as the Democratic nominee, and GOP contenders Jeff Burningham and Aimee Winder Newton are eliminated at state party conventions.
- July 1, 2020: Greg Hughes and Thomas Wright concede the race after disappointing election-night returns.
- July 6, 2020: The Associated Press calls the Republican primary election for Spencer Cox; Jon Huntsman Jr. concedes.
- Aug. 7, 2020: A poll from the Deseret News and the Hinckley Institute of Politics gives Cox a big early lead on Peterson statewide, with 49% support to Peterson's 17%, and 29% undecided.
- Aug. 28, 2020: Huntsman announces he will not run a write-in campaign for governor, as some had urged.
Eliminated from the race
- Jeff Burningham (R), Jason Christensen (R), Jan Garbett (R), Neil Hansen (D), Greg Hughes (R), Jon Huntsman Jr. (R), Ryan D. Jackson (D), Zachary Moses (D), Nikki Pino (D), Kevin Probasco (D), Aimee Winder Newton (R), Thomas Wright (R)
Watch the debates and forums
- Silicon Slopes, Jan. 31
- Envision Utah, April 29
- Washington County Republican Women, May 7
- Salt Lake Chamber/EDCUtah, May 7
- Equality Utah, May 21
- Utah Debate Commission, June 1
- Vernal Area Chamber of Commerce, June 8
- World Trade Center/KSL NewsRadio, June 11
- KUTV 2News/Pioneer Park Coalition, June 16
LIVE NOW: Utah's four Republican gubernatorial candidates appear in historic prime-time televised debate NOW on KUTV2 and kutv.com/watchPosted by KUTV 2News on Tuesday, June 16, 2020