Democrat Rep. Brian King announces run for governor

Dec 4, 2023, 9:25 AM | Updated: 5:30 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Democrat Rep. Brian King has announced he is running for governor of Utah.

King represents part of Salt Lake City in the Utah House of Representatives, having been elected to the Legislature in 2008, and served as House Minority Leader from 2015 to 2023.

We need new ideas, we need different life experiences, we need different values and priorities, quite honestly. So that really is what drove my thinking and wanting to jump into the race,” King told KSL TV.

Winning a statewide race as a Democrat in Utah is not unheard of — Utah has had six Democratic governors since statehood. But it hasn’t happened in almost four decades.

The last Democrat to hold the seat was in 1985 when Scott Mattheson’s term ended. Republican Norm Bangerter was then elected, and the seat has stayed red ever since..

In the most recent election of 2020, Cox beat his Democratic challenger, Chris Peterson, by 37 points.

“I wouldn’t throw my hat into the ring if I didn’t think we could win,” King said.

King’s priorities

King said that as Governor, some of his priorities would be affordable housing, the Great Salt Lake, and shrinking the wage gap. He was also vocal about a number of hot-button issues. He said he feels like Republicans hold too much control with the governor’s seat and a supermajority in the legislature.

“One of the things that troubles me about our governor is that he takes his cues from the legislature and the extreme voices in the legislature. I think that we need a governor who will stand up to terrible legislation when it crosses his desk, rather than just sign it and say nothing,” King said.

Abortion is one of those issues where King would like to see that change.

“[Governor Cox] has allowed the legislature and has signed off on the legislative, the legislature’s overreach into the most personal, private decisions we make in our lives. I’m talking about the persistent efforts by the legislature and the governor, to put in place restrictive laws that impact reproductive freedom and liberty. I’m talking about restricting abortion in a way that I think is really, really problematic,” King said.

On the Great Salt Lake, King said there is more to do with federal and state resources to get more water into the lake.

“We know that agricultural interests take about 75 to 80% of the water, that would go to the Great Salt Lake, I don’t think we’ve done enough working collaboratively with agriculture in a way that I think will be — not just telling them, they can’t do their work as farmers — but saying, let’s come up with a creative solution for you to take less water to do your work as a farmer or to maybe compensate you and you have to let fields lay fallow,” he said.

Cox welcomed a competition of ideas

On Monday, Governor Cox welcomed King — and anyone else who gets into the race.

“Running for office is never easy,” Cox said.

Cox had just finished unveiling his priority for $186 million in 2024 to help the homeless and provide mental health support.

“[The race] should be a competition of ideas,” he added. “Just because I’ve been here for four years doesn’t mean I should get a free pass, going four more years. And so I look forward to being held accountable and in running on my record as well,” Cox said.

Cox is also facing a challenger from his own party — and from the right — in Rep. Phil Lyman of Blanding. 

Cox said he believes he has tremendous support around the state.

“[King] has served his district as a legislator, we’ve disagreed on lots of things. But we’ve worked together on things before and so I you know, we’ll see who gets into the race and then we’ll have some very robust conversations,” Cox said.

Will King step down as a lawmaker?

King said he won’t step down from his seat in the legislature to run for Governor. He said he’ll finish his term through then end of 2024. As a sitting lawmaker, he can’t fundraise while the legislature is in session from January 16 until March 1.

“It’s a bit of a sacrifice in terms of running for governor because during that timeframe when I’m in session, I’m going to be focused on session material. I won’t be able to raise money for the gubernatorial campaign. That’s fine. I have obligated myself to serve District 23, I love the people in District 23. I’ve done it for many years. They elected me in 2022. They’re going to see me through and I’m going to see them through the end of 2024,” King said.


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Democrat Rep. Brian King announces run for governor