Former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes will formally announce his candidacy for governor Jan. 8, sources close to Hughes confirmed to UtahPolicy.com on Thursday.
It has long been expected and comes just a few days after former Utah state Republican Party chairman Thomas Wright announced his gubernatorial bid this week.
Hughes brings the serious GOP candidates to six, with Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox running since early summer and former Gov. Jon Huntsman announcing late last year.
Also in the race are tech millionaire Jeff Burningham and Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton.
It’s still possible a few more credible candidates could get in, including retiring U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and Attorney General Sean Reyes.
Hughes has been raising money in his personal PAC, and been successful with it, since last summer. There are no individual or corporate campaign donation limits in the governor’s race.
His latest filings show Hughes has raised $482,000, with several large donations of $100,000 or more.
Hughes has told UtahPolicy.com previously that without great name I.D. across the state -- even though he was high-profile House speaker -- he needed to raise considerable funds to show he could run a substantive campaign in 2020.
GOP Gov. Gary Herbert is not seeking re-election this year, and while not officially endorsing Cox yet, has given at least $50,000 to Cox’s campaign.
In a recent UtahPolicy/Y2 Analytics poll of registered Republicans, Cox leads Huntsman 41-29 percent, with the other candidates falling down into single digits.
Hughes comes in at 5 percent GOP support.
Only registered Republicans can vote in the closed June primary -- and it appears that all of the major candidates will be gathering voter signatures to ensure they make that ballot.
Hughes has said that he, too, would gather signatures under SB54. But most of the main candidates will also likely appear before GOP state party delegates in a May convention, seeking to do well there, as well.
But even if they don’t end up one of the top two convention candidates, they can’t be eliminated under SB54 and will make the ballot via voter signatures if they can get 28,000 GOP voters to sign their petitions.
Hughes could be one of several gubernatorial candidates who may be interested in a lieutenant governor slot with another leading candidate -- although that is just speculation at this point.
It is unlikely Cox or Huntsman would accept a No. 2 slot since Huntsman has been elected governor twice and Cox is already the LG.
Hughes played major roles in a number of high profile legislative issues, the most recent being the December 2018 compromise between advocates of medical marijuana citizen initiative and leaders of the LDS Church, which ended up with a special session that amended the November 2018 successful citizen petition into a workable solution that was acceptable to church leaders.
Medical marijuana will, hopefully, be available to those who qualify by March of this year.
And then-Gov. Huntsman tapped Hughes to lead out in the Legislature a decade ago to work out compromises that led to “liquor by the drink” in the state, something the LDS Church leaders had opposed for generations.
Will there be a Huntsman/Hughes ticket?
There’s been speculation -- and Hughes could bring Huntsman some much-needed conservative voters. But for now Hughes is running his own campaign for governor in 2020.
And announcing next week, UtahPolicy is told.