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Democrat Brian King's Campaign for Utah Governor is 'an uphill fight' (Daily Utah Chronicle)

Turning a red state blue is possible, but not easy. Rep. Brian King’s campaign calls for counterbalance in Utah politics, a balance missing for nearly 40 years amidst what he calls a Republican “supermajority.”

By Libby Hanson | Daily Utah Chronicle

Gubernatorial candidate Brian King thinks Utah politics need a better counterbalance.

“Republican representatives and their ideology has gotten more extreme,” he said in an interview with the Chronicle. “They’ve gotten more willing to run legislation based on ideology … that I think is problematic and not in the interests of Utah.”

Rep. Brian King (D-Salt Lake) has served in the Utah State Legislature for 16 years, both as a member and leader in the minority caucus of the House of Representatives. He said the minority caucus has worked hard to pass bills and receive cooperation from Republicans.

“I don’t have a problem working across the aisle and I’ve enjoyed my relationships with the legislature,” he said.

However, he added they can only do so much under the control of one party.

Utah has had one-party control for nearly 40 years, since Democratic Gov. Scott Matheson who served from 1977-1985.

King called this Republican party control a “supermajority.”

“It’s one thing for them to have that in the legislature and have occasional Democratic governors who have come in to act as a break or a check on Republican power,” he said, “But we haven’t had that.”

King said he thinks Gov. Spencer Cox has succumbed to the demands of the supermajority.

“We have a governor who has felt greater pressure to basically roll over and cave into what the most extreme legislators have wanted,” he said.

King said reinstated balance is “critically important” because otherwise people never hear about what they’re missing in terms of the public policy as it’s being made.

If elected as governor, King said he would stand up to “bad bills” and veto them — something he said Cox has not done often. Cox did veto a controversial transgender sports bill in 2022.

“In the end, because I have a bigger megaphone, and because my arguments are sound about why we took the bill, I’m going to prevail in that argument,” he said. “The governor has not done that.”

King’s platform includes abortion rights, expansion of Medicare, restricted gun rights and saving Great Salt Lake.

King said the possible abortion trigger laws are detrimental to the people of Utah. The laws have been under review by the Utah Supreme Court for nearly two years.

“We talked about being this pro-family state and we talked about trusting families,” he said. “And then we say, ‘here’s the most personal, private decisions that you can make. Sorry, you’re not gonna be able to make them, we’re gonna make them for you.’”

King said he plans to visit rural Utah once campaigning continues after the Legislative Session to discuss economic growth with residents, including renewable energy opportunities.

“We’re going to try and make sure we do that and talk to people and find out what they’re thinking,” he said.

University of Utah political science professor James Curry said Utah sees relatively high turnout for Governor elections. When asked how a Democrat could win the election he said it would “take everything lining up perfectly.”

Curry said since Utah is one of the most skewed states in terms of party identification towards one side of the spectrum, that makes a Democrat’s election an “uphill fight,” but not an impossible one.

Curry said it would take a deeply unpopular governor, likely facing scandal. This, combined with a Democratic candidate with meaningful crossover appeal, could win the election where even conservative voters are satisfied.

The nation has seen this phenomenon before in Massachusetts when current Democratic Gov. Maura Healey won over Republican gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl in 2022. Diehl was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who was deeply unpopular in Massachusetts at the time.

Curry said King is well-known among voters because of his 16 years in state leadership, and is likely to raise a decent amount of money to run a professional campaign. However, he is unsure if it’s enough, especially considering how popular Cox is.

Currently, Cox is the leading candidate in the Utah GOP election. According to Deseret News, 50% of Republican voters said they plan to vote for him, and Cox is ahead of his Republican competitors by 45%.

Curry added the majority of Cox’s approval comes from moderate voters, so it is Democratic voters that would need to vote to elect a Democratic candidate.

According to Curry, this doesn’t allow “much room” to elect a Democrat into office.

Despite this uphill battle, King will continue to campaign. He also called on students to vote in this upcoming election.

“Everything that we do up at the legislature has a disproportionate impact on people who are younger,” he said, adding that students will be the ones living the “fruits of what we’re doing out there.”

“I want to do what I can to reach out and say please get involved in the political process,” he said.


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