UtahPolicy.com has learned that several Republicans are urging Salt Lake County Council Chair Aimee Winder Newton to run for governor in 2020.
Winder Newton, who has served on the County Council since 2014, would be the first major-party female gubernatorial candidate in Utah since Gov. Olene Walker ran for a full term in 2004. She would also be only the second woman to seek the top spot on the GOP ticket in recent memory. Sheryl Allen was the last woman to appear on a major-party ticket in Utah when she was Democrat Peter Corroon’s running mate in the 2010 special election.
When asked about a possible 2020 campaign, Winder Newton acknowledged she was being encouraged to run, but would not say whether she was seriously considering it.
“It’s an honor to be thought of and I will give it serious consideration since many of the issues I am working on culminate at the state level. Right now, I am focused on representing my constituents well on the County Council,” she said.
So far, Winder Newton is the sole woman being mentioned in what is a male-dominated GOP field, which includes current Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, businessmen Greg Miller and Jeff Burningham, former Utah Rep. and current Fox News commentator Jason Chaffetz and, possibly, Sen. Mike Lee.
While it may be easy to dismiss Winder Newton as a serious candidate in what seems to be a top-heavy field so far, consider that she was able to win twice as a Republican in one of the biggest swing districts in the state’s largest county.
Former State Rep. Sophia DiCaro, who unsuccessfully ran for County Council in 2018, said she thinks Winder Newton’s experience as chair of the Salt Lake County Council would make her an appealing candidate.
“She’s a collaborative leader who can resolve meaningful issues,” said DiCaro. “She’s proven she can work across the aisle.”
Box Elder County Commissioner Stan Summers did not hold back with praise when asked about Winder Newton possibly running.
“She’s well respected around the state,” he said. “She’s the strongest female leader in Utah since Becky Lockhart, and would be a top-tier candidate.”
Invoking Lockhart’s name is high praise indeed. Lockhart, who was the first female Speaker of the House in Utah history, was thought to be mulling a gubernatorial run herself in 2016. However, she died from a rare degenerative brain disorder in 2015.
Winder Newton declined to comment when asked about a timeline for making a decision on whether or not she will run.