After playing a short game of "will he or won't he," Gov. Gary Herbert has finally declared his intention to use the signature route to get on the 2016 primary ballot.
Herbert's Republican opponent, Jonathan Johnson, announced he would only pursue the caucus/convention system this year, declining to use paid signature-gatherers to assure himself a place on the ballot.
Herbert should have no trouble getting the 28,000 signatures he needs statewide to get a place on the ballot. A UtahPolicy.com survey from November showed he enjoys high approval ratings, with 72% of Utahns saying they approve of the job the governor is doing.
In September, UtahPolicy.com polled a hypothetical matchup between Herbert and Johnson. 59% of Utahns said they would vote for Herbert with Johnson getting 15%.
Among Republicans, Herbert has an even bigger lead, with 74% of Republicans saying they would support Herbert and 11% siding with Johnson. Those numbers seem to bode well for Herbert in a potential primary matchup against Johnson.
Herbert's campaign released a statement saying they plan to use both the signature gathering route and caucus/convention path in the 2016 election season.
"Gov. Herbert feels very strongly that he would not be governor today without the caucus-convention system. The governor will absolutely participate in the caucus-convention process, and he looks forward to meeting with delegates and party activists to discuss his strong record and conservative vision for the next four years."
Johnson's campaign blasted Herbert for taking the signature route, which ends any chance Johnson could eliminate Herbert from the race at the GOP State Convention in April. This means Johnson needs to get at least 40% at the convention to advance to a primary against Herbert in June.
In a statement provided to UtahPolicy.com, Johnson campaign spokesperson Sasha Clark said, "It is disheartening for Utahns that Gov. Herbert has opted to pay a company to gather signatures for him and at the same time, refuses to debate Jonathan. This essentially means Gov. Herbert could never leave his office, and he still has a guaranteed spot on the ballot. This is simply not right."
Herbert's campaign has indicated they will use paid signature gatherers as well as reaching out to volunteers to help them procure the needed number to get on the ballot.
Herbert joins another prominent Utah Republican, Sen. Mike Lee, who is also gathering signatures for the 2016 ballot.