Federal judge denies Jeff Burningham’s lawsuit seeking a spot in the June primary

Jeff Burningham 04

A federal judge on Friday afternoon denied Republican Jeff Burningham’s legal bid to secure a spot on the June primary ballot. Burningham tells UtahPolicy.com he will not appeal the decision.

Burningham argued that the coronavirus outbreak took away his campaign’s ability to gather signatures, leaving him short of the 28,000 signatures needed to qualify for the primary election. Burningham’s campaign asked the court to place them on the ballot if 70 percent of the 19,150 signatures they had collected before they stopped were able to be validated by the Utah Elections Office. 

Judge Richard Shelby denied Burningham’s petition on Friday afternoon. 

Burningham told UtahPolicy.com in a text message that he was disappointed in the ruling, but he acknowledged that his campaign had come to an end.

“I am grateful for my donors, friends and team. When I learned there was a chance the signatures we gathered could be counted, I acted quickly. I needed to ensure the efforts of my supporters were counted & their voices were heard,” said Burningham.

Burningham suspended his signature gathering in March during the early stages of the novel coronavirus outbreak. After Gov. Herbert issued his directive asking Utahns to avoid public places and stay home to slow the spread of the virus, he did make some accommodations allowing campaigns that had not yet reached the signature threshold to collect signatures remotely. Only Jon Huntsman’s campaign was able to take advantage of the new rules to book a spot in the primary election.

Burningham said those changes from Herbert were woefully inadequate in the face of the unprecedented crisis.

“While most other states made significant elections accommodations during a global pandemic, ours did virtually nothing. That feels wrong & is at the heart of why I was running in the first place. This is not the time for politics per usual. We need election reform in Utah that is constitutional, fair, and flexible enough to adapt to the needs of the people not the government.”

With Burningham ending his campaign, there are four Republicans vying for the GOP nomination in June: Spencer Cox, Jon Huntsman, Greg Hughes and Thomas Wright. 

“I’m confident the primary will produce a strong Republican candidate and I look forward to supporting that candidate for Governor and opportunities to serve the state in the future,” said Burningham.