ST. GEORGE — After months of preparation, Jeff Burningham became the second Republican candidate to announce he will be running for Utah governor on the steps of the state capitol building Tuesday.
Burningham, who markets himself as an “innovative outsider,” said running for governor was a difficult decision that he and his wife made together. The newest gubernatorial candidate said he made the decision to run because because he wants to help get things done at this critical point in the state’s history.
“I think now is the right time to get into the race,” he said. “Our internal team was ready, the message was ready, and I feel more politically ready than I ever have.”
Before the announcement, Burningham traveled around the state, hosting about 200 meetings across all 29 counties. The listening tour, he said, helped him learn about and better understand issues from different perspectives, especially in rural and southern parts of the state.
Burningham said the most surprising issue he learned about on his tour was what he described as “the heavy hand of the federal government on rural Utah.” From a rancher who lost almost half of his livestock to public lands, Burningham said learning more about the topic made him realize that rural Utah needs someone to fight for them, and he intends to be that fighter.
To ensure that rural and southern parts of the state aren’t left out of the policy-making process, Burningham said he wants to include a rural director in his cabinet. This individual, he said, would remain in rural Utah while helping represent regions of the state that often feel neglected by the bigger cities.
Burningham said he intends to educate urban areas within Utah on the problems rural Utah is facing, from public lands to the need for economic diversity.
“In my opinion, we’re all one Utah,” he said. “I intend to represent all of Utah … I’m a unifier. I want to bring people together.”
According to Burningham, Utah is in the perfect position to make nationwide changes and the state needs a governor who can create more jobs, has a smart plan and will stand up to the federal government.
“I’m willing to be bold,” he said. “This isn’t about what’s politically expedient to me, this is about what’s practical.”
If elected, Burningham says one of his visions is to conduct a “large, top-to-bottom audit” of the state’s budget to analyze government spending. As the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force works through a number of possible solutions to Utah’s shrinking sales tax base, the Utah entrepreneur argues there is not a revenue problem, but a spending problem.
Furthermore, Burningham is staunchly against taxing business inputs. He said taxing services would slow down the economy, “placing constraints on businesses” that would affect employment and consumer spending.
Burningham’s tagline – “game-changing leadership” – is a promise to residents that he will take a proactive approach to the state’s practical issues and “changing the very way government thinks and operates.
“Politicians are enablers of the system that’s made them, while I think innovators and entrepreneurs are disruptors that allow greater things to happen for everyone.”
The Republican candidate is planning to continue his tour around Utah to explain what “game-changing leadership” means for the state and each county. He says he is planning to run an aggressive and positive campaign in every county, while championing “tomorrow’s opportunity, not yesterday’s ideas or today’s status quo.”
Burningham is hosting a Southern Utah Launch Party Saturday in Cedar City. The event will be held in the Southern Utah University Hunter Conference Center Great Hall from 6-8 p.m.
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