If Overstock.com chairman Jonathan Johnson decides to challenge Gov. Gary Herbert in 2016, he already has a formidable political operative on his side.
Dave Hansen, who currently is guiding Mia Love’s Congressional campaign, says if Johnson runs, he will play a part in that campaign.
“I have done work for Overstock.com for a number of years. They are a great company,” says Hansen. “Jonathan is a very talented individual. If he chooses to run for office, I intend to be part of his team.”
However, Hansen tells Utah Policy right now his focus is on running Love’s campaign.
Johnson has long been rumored as a possible candidate for governor in 2016.
Hansen picking sides this early in the process adds an intriguing element to the race more than two years out. House Speaker Becky Lockhart has reportedly been planning a gubernatorial challenge for a couple of years.
Hansen is one of the most successful campaign managers in recent Utah history, guiding Sen. Orrin Hatch’s efforts for a number of years, most famously helping the seven-term Senator fend off a challenge from Dan Liljenquist in 2012. Hansen also served as chairman of Utah’s Republican Party.
If Johnson jumps into the race, it could mean the contest for the GOP nomination in 2016 might be a financial record setter.
In his winning 2012 campaign, Herbert raised $2.2 million and spent $1.8 million. The latest campaign finance report shows Herbert has $43,452 on hand. He also has $631,840 in his Governor’s Leadership Political Action Committee.
Johnson’s large personal fortune, along with Hansen’s fundraising prowess, may push the price tag well past that 2012 total, especially with the new dual-track nomination system that sprung from the “Count My Vote” effort and the SB 54 compromise bill passed by the 2014 Legislature.