The crowded Republican field for governor is about to expand by one more candidate. Businesswoman Jan Garbett tells UtahPolicy.com she is set to jump into the race as soon as this weekend.
Garbett says she was exploring a primary challenge against Rep. Chris Stewart in November but changed her mind after all six of the current Republicans running for governor said they supported President Donald Trump during a recent debate.
“Republicans need a choice,” said Garbett. “Every single candidate is a Donald Trump supporter. I want to invite people who have left the Republican Party to come back in and vote for me.”
Several of the Republicans running have direct ties to the current president. Former House Speaker Greg Hughes is the most pro-Trump in the current field, running ads explicitly tying himself to the president. Hughes also touts himself as one of the first supporters of Trump in Utah. Jon Huntsman served as Trump’s ambassador to Russia, while Thomas Wright was one of Utah’s representatives on the Republican National Committee.
Current Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who has publicly disagreed with Trump in the past, has thrown his support behind the president. Aimee Winder Newton and Jeff Burningham also affirmed their support for the current occupant of the White House.
Garbett says she does not want to turn the GOP primary race into a referendum on Trump’s presidency in the state, nor does she want to be seen as a “never Trumper,” but she does feel the president’s behavior is an issue that will win her some votes.
“Some people have felt that their voices have been pushed out of the party. I want to show there’s a difference between Utah values and Trump values,” said Garbett.
She may have a tough task ahead of her. Polling from UtahPolicy.com/KUTV 2News and Y2 Analytics shows Trump’s approval ratings in Utah climbed above 50% for the first time in his presidency in January. Additionally, 92% of “strong” Republicans say they approve how Trump is handling his job, as do 66% of moderate Republicans and 75% of independent voters who lean Republican.
Garbett says she plans to gather the 28,000 signatures needed to secure a place on the primary ballot. She would be the fifth Republican candidate taking the signature route. So far, only Cox has turned in any signatures. Hughes says he will take the convention-only route, and Winder Newton announced Wednesday she was abandoning her efforts to gather the needed signatures in order to focus on the convention.
Garbett previously ran for lieutenant governor with Democrat Vaughn Cook in 2016, but the two were defeated at the convention. She was briefly a Congressional candidate for the fledgling United Utah Party before dropping out of the race.
Garbett could bring considerable financial resources to the race. She helps manage Garbett Homes with her husband, Bryson, a former GOP state lawmaker who served two terms in the Utah House in the 1980s.