Utah GOP Vice Chair Aaron Starks mulling congressional bid


Aaron Starks 01

Current Utah GOP vice chair Aaron Starks tells UtahPolicy.com he is seriously considering jumping into the race to replace retiring Rep. Rob Bishop in Utah’s 1st Congressional District.

“I wasn’t thinking about this until a few weeks ago,” Starks said Wednesday. “I have been approached by several people who are encouraging me to run, and there are a few people who have offered to help me put together a campaign.”

Starks was elected as vice chair of the Utah GOP this past spring. He’s also worked for a couple of political action committees, including Prosperity 2020 and Education First Utah.

Starks would join an already crowded field with four declared candidates and several others who are considering a run. So far Morgan County Council member Tina Cannon, Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt, Clearfield Mayor Mark Shepherd and Cory Gardner have all officially launched their candidacy for the GOP nomination. Other possible Republican candidates include Nutraceutical founder Bruce Hough, State Reps. Stephen Handy, Lee Perry and Paul Ray, Utah Ag and Food Commissioner Kerry Gibson, Box Elder County Commissioner Stan Summers and Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson.

Starks says he hopes to offer a contrast to the current and potential field of candidates if he decides to run.

“One of the reasons I’ve been approached to run is the field offers several candidates who are essentially the same kind of person,” says Starks. “There’s lots of municipal experience among those candidates. But I could be the kind of person who potentially could be in Washington for a long time.”

As he considers launching a bid for Congress, Starks says he’s consulted with many people, including Rep. Bishop, his former boss.

“He encouraged me to run and asked how he could be helpful,” says Starks.

However, don’t confuse Bishop’s counsel with an endorsement. When reached for comment Bishop stressed he is offering advice on running to any candidate or potential candidate who reaches out to him.

“I have encouraged lots of people to run,” said Bishop. “If anyone calls me about this, I would give them as much information as possible.”

Starks hedged when asked whether he would gather signatures to secure a place on the ballot or go through the traditional caucus/convention system.

“As one of the leaders of the Republican Party in Utah, I’ve spent a significant amount of time working to shore up the caucus system. I don’t have a problem with people gathering signatures as long as they go through the convention, too. I’m committed to going through the convention,” he said.

Starks currently does not live in the 1st District. He moved to Salt Lake City to be closer to his work at Franklin Covey. But he quickly points out he was “born and raised” there, and says he’s willing to move back.

Starks says he anticipates making a final decision on whether to run within the coming weeks.