State Rep. Phil Lyman announces run for governor

Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, on Feb. 28. Lyman announced Monday he will challenge Gov. Spencer Cox in 2024.

Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, on Feb. 28. Lyman announced Monday he will challenge Gov. Spencer Cox in 2024. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — State Rep. Phil Lyman, a hard-line conservative who has repeatedly questioned the results of the 2020 presidential election and was convicted of a misdemeanor after riding an ATV across federally protected lands in protest, announced his campaign for governor on Monday.

The Blanding Republican has served in the Utah Legislature since 2019, where he is one the most conservative lawmakers in the House of Representatives and once led the chamber's conservative caucus. Prior to his legislative tenure, Lyman served as a San Juan County commissioner.

Lyman has long been rumored as a potential primary challenger to Gov. Spencer Cox. Though Lyman didn't mention Cox by name, a press release announcing his candidacy said Lyman has "been attacked by the left and (Republican in name only) establishment Republicans," using a term often applied by far-right Republicans to party members they feel are insufficiently loyal to their agenda or to former President Donald Trump.

"Utah was never meant to be a vassal state. It was meant to be an ensign for the nations," Lyman said Monday. "I don't apologize for the lofty ideals of devotion to family and community that make Utah such a great place to live and work, to have children, to start a business, to buy a home, to work, and to play.

"Utah is No. 1 because of its people, not because of its government."

Cox has said he will seek a second term in office, and Lyman is the first challenger to announce a primary challenge against the governor.

A spokesman for Cox's 2024 campaign defended the governor's record since taking office in 2021, and noted that Cox donated to Lyman's legal defense.

"Gov. Cox was one of the very first people to contribute money to Phil's legal defense, and he's grateful that President Trump pardoned him," Matt Lusty told "The governor is proud of his record leading the best-managed state in the nation by delivering the largest tax cut in Utah history, protecting the sanctity of life, and empowering Utah parents to protect their children from the abuses of social media."

'Trumped-up' trespassing charge

Lyman was convicted of misdemeanor trespassing in 2015, after leading a 2014 ATV ride through Recapture Canyon, which the Bureau of Land Management had closed to off-road vehicles, in a protest of federal land management policies. He spent 10 days in jail and was ordered to pay $95,955 in restitution to the BLM.

Rather than shy away from the incident, Lyman leaned into his arrest in his announcement, calling it a "trumped-up charge" and noting that he's the "only state legislator ever elected in Utah that had a parole officer at the time of his election."

In a move reminiscent of Trump — who used his Georgia mugshot to raise $7.1 million from donors in just a few days — Lyman's announcement video prominently displays his own mugshot taken at the Purgatory Correctional Facility in April 2015.

The video said Lyman "went to jail to stand up against federal overreach and the radical liberal agenda," and featured images of President Joe Biden, an apparent drag queen reading a children's book and a sign on the door of a business that reads: "Sorry, we're closed due to COVID-19."

Lyman, who created the Yellowcake Caucus at the Legislature, named for the processing of uranium ore, lists energy independence as a key policy focus, and blames the federal government for preventing Utah from fully capitalizing on its mineral deposits.

He supports individual rights "including the rights of consenting adults to choose their lifestyle," but remains opposed to "actions that harm children," which he said include "gender indoctrination" and transgender-related medical treatments.

"If we find ourselves with a government that conjures emergencies to trample our rights, then in our republic, we have the right to choose new leaders," Lyman said. "I believe we have better roads ahead, and I'm asking my fellow Utahns for your vote."

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Bridger Beal-Cvetko covers Utah politics, Salt Lake County communities and breaking news for He is a graduate of Utah Valley University.


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