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Number of Candidates in Utah's Gubernatorial Field Increasing

Stefan Jürgensen,

The race for Utah’s open gubernatorial seat is getting crowded. Six candidates have already declared their intent to gather signatures with other high profile individuals expected to announce their decisions by the end of the month.

“You have three juggernauts-- the sitting lieutenant governor, a former governor, and the previous speaker of the Utah House of Representatives, and everybody else keeps deciding they want to jump in,” said Adam Brown, an associate professor of political science at Brigham Young University.

“It's a wild race, but ultimately it's going to come down to just two and maybe three in the end who voters really gravitate behind, and it will be hard for anybody besides Huntsman and Cox to get much attention with those two fighting it out at the top,” Brown said.

Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and current Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox are the most well-known candidates who have declared their intent to run.

Former speaker of the Utah House Greg Hughes and current Congressman Rob Bishop have been considering the race, but have yet to jump into the field officially. Bishop said he will make his decision public by the end of the month and Hughes teased in an email on Friday that he will be making an “exciting announcement” on Wednesday.

Salt Lake County Council member Aimee Winder Newton, former Utah GOP chair Thomas Wright, and businessman Jeff Burningham are the other Republican candidates who have declared for the race.

So far, Nikki R. Pino is the only Democratic candidate who has declared intent to run and gather signatures.

Brown said with so many candidates in the race, he wonders if all of them are actually running for governor.

“You look at a presidential race,” Brown said. “We know that people run in open presidential primaries, not expecting to win, but hoping to push an issue that they would like to see their party's nominee pressured to take up. And we know that people run sometimes not expecting to win but hoping to raise their profile so maybe they can get a cabinet position or otherwise prepare themselves for other political things.”

Editor's note: The spelling of Jeff Burningham's has been corrected.