Brad Wilson appears to be pulling back in US Senate race

Jun 13, 2024, 6:23 PM | Updated: Jun 14, 2024, 3:20 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — As the push to the Republican primary election for U.S. Senate heats up, one candidate appears to be slowing down.

Multiple sources told KSL that former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson is privately acknowledging the uphill battle he faces – right as voters are casting their ballots.

In fact, KSL has learned that Wilson – one of four candidates in the GOP race to replace Sen. Mitt Romney – recently met with campaign staff and acknowledged his likely loss.

Wilson is polling in third place behind Congressman John Curtis and Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, but ahead of businessman Jason Walton, according to a recent survey from the Deseret News and Hinckley Institute of Politics.

Now, Wilson has stopped buying paid advertising, a development first reported by The Salt Lake Tribune. The last time Wilson advertised on KSL TV was May 28, more than two weeks ago.

Wilson’s posts on social media have also become far less frequent. His last Facebook post came on May 20, nearly a month ago.

And when KSL checked Wilson’s website Thursday afternoon, no events at all were listed for the final weeks of this campaign.

Additionally, Wilson’s Provo office – which opened in February – was dark and locked Thursday morning. A source told KSL the office had been a beehive of activity for months – that is, until the last ten days or so.

By many accounts, Wilson appears to be pulling back even though nearly two weeks remain until the primary election on June 25.

“It’s an odd time to be doing this,” University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank said. “Usually, the only thing that kind of motivates that at this point would be a really severe lack of money.”

But Wilson raised a lot of money and gave his campaign nearly $3 million from his own pocket. He also scored many high-profile endorsements from Gov. Spencer Cox, legislators, and local elected officials.

On paper, Burbank said, Wilson “looked like a really strong candidate” when he entered the race last year. But in a crowded field, the former House speaker struggled to stand out.

“Particularly when John Curtis got in the race,” Burbank said, “that sort of changed his trajectory.”

KSL reached out to Wilson’s campaign, which pushed back against the notion that he’s throwing in the towel.

“These are nothing but baseless rumors,” Gabby Wiggins, Wilson’s press secretary, said in a statement. “This type of speculation is not helpful to Utah voters who are faced with making important choices about who will represent their values back in Washington DC. Brad Wilson remains the best choice to get our country back on track and our team is proud of the hard work we’ve put in over the past few months to spread our message to voters all across the state.”

The campaign’s Provo office will be used “as necessary,” Wiggins added, and nobody from the campaign staff has been let go.

Wilson is not the first Utah House speaker to try to seek higher office. Others before him – including Greg Hughes, David Clark, and Marty Stephens – have failed to parlay that position into higher office.

In this race, Burbank said, some of the other candidates have made things challenging for Wilson. That includes Curtis – who has a strong name ID and has attracted a lot of outside spending from political action committees – and Staggs – the Republican convention winner who scored an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

For Wilson, Burbank said, “he really couldn’t carve out a lane that was entirely his own.”

Wilson took part in a debate earlier this week between the four Republican Senate candidates. Afterward, he was asked by a reporter what would happen if he was not elected to represent Utah in Washington.

“My campaign has always been – and it continues to be – that we need to take good, commonsense Utah solutions back to Washington,” Wilson responded, touting his leadership experience and support from other elected officials. “I think that’s unfortunate if I don’t succeed, but I’m still optimistic.”

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Brad Wilson appears to be pulling back in US Senate race