Thomas Wright says he’s disappointed in the story that Gov. Gary Herbert asked him to drop out of the GOP race for governor was made public, but he adds he thinks his campaign has been energized by the drama.
“The thing that was disappointing to me, is a private conversation between myself and the governor was leaked by another campaign to spread the rumor that I was getting out of the race,” said Wright during a Thursday afternoon telephone call.
Wright took the high road during the conversation and declined to name the campaign he believes leaked the story.
“It’s unfortunate they would put this in the public sphere thinking it would hurt me and boost them,” is all he would say.
UtahPolicy.com broke the story on Tuesday that Wright twice met with Herbert in recent weeks. During those meetings, Herbert urged Wright to drop out of the race and endorse Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who is Herbert’s chosen successor in the Republican primary race for governor. Herbert also encouraged Wright to challenge Sen. Mike Lee in the 2022 U.S. Senate contest. Herbert confirmed our reporting during a Thursday morning press conference.
It has been reported that during the meetings Herbert offered to give Wright political and financial support if he were to challenge Lee in two years. Herbert denied he offered Wright any enticements to drop out of the race.
Wright parsed his words carefully when asked if he was offered anything to suspend his campaign and endorse Cox.
“It was said to me if I were to get out of the race and throw my support behind a certain candidate, that candidate’s supporters would be appreciative of the move and would be inclined to back me in a future political race,” said Wright.
It appears the GOP primary for governor is going to come down to the wire in June. Polling shows either Cox or former Gov. Jon Huntsman leading the race, followed by former House Speaker Greg Hughes. Wright, who finished in fourth place at the Utah GOP convention in April, is trailing the pack with just 6 percent support. If Wright were to get behind Cox, it could prove decisive in the contest.
Wright says he has spoken with Herbert a few times since this story came to light.
“We’ve mostly talked about what happened and making sure the information that is getting out there is accurate and we’re being candid,” he said.
Wright has adamantly said he’s not exiting the race and says the furor from this story has reinvigorated him for the stretch run.
“This illustrates the need for new leadership. It highlights the problem of the same people just handing the baton back and forth to each other. My opponents have been in government for years. It’s time to ditch this system and try something new,” he said.
The four Republican candidates for governor will face off in their first televised debate on Monday.