Deseret News – House Speaker Brad Wilson is resigning from the Utah Legislature.
A news release Monday from Wilson about his legislative resignation did not mention his Senate hopes, but he talked briefly about his decision during a news conference held during a day of legislative interim meetings at Utah Tech University in St. George.
The speaker said he tendered his resignation, effective Nov. 15 at 5 p.m., “so that a new speaker can get elected, and the legislative session can get ramped up and the work can get done for the the people of Utah.”
He said he couldn’t “serve the people my district and also serve as speaker of the House and simultaneously do that work and run at the same time. So I thought it was in the best interest of the Legislature and the people of Utah to have a full-time speaker of the House.”
Still, Wilson stopped short of declaring he’s a candidate, referring to an announcement “about what my plans are” that’s scheduled for Sept. 27, but did note that “there are a lot of problems in D.C.” and that he’s been encouraged to run for U.S. Senate.
Monday, his campaign tweeted an invitation to that “special announcement” in Draper, with a message from the candidate: “It’s time for a conservative fighter in the U.S. Senate. Mark your calendar to join Jeni and me on Sept. 27th to get America back on track.”
According to the most recent Federal Election Commission quarterly filing by his campaign, Wilson had more than $2.2 million in cash on hand as of July 15, including $1.2 million that he’s loaned the effort.
Utah’s declared Senate candidates include Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, but there is a growing list of potential GOP contenders, such as former Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Tim Ballard, founder and former CEO of Operation Underground Railroad.
House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, who is running to replace Wilson as speaker, said elections for all four leadership positions will likely be held by the GOP supermajority in November, in a closed-door caucus. All of the positions are expected to be contested.
A special session of the Legislature to vote on the Republican caucus’ choice for speaker could then be held on Nov. 15, Wilson’s last day in the Legislature. Davis County GOP delegates will choose the new House District 15 representative.
Wilson, a homebuilder and developer, said in the news release, “Serving in the Utah House of Representatives and as Speaker of the House has been the honor, privilege, and opportunity of a lifetime — and I don’t say that lightly.”
First elected to represent House District 15 in 2011, Wilson has served as speaker of the Utah House since January 2019. He said he “did not anticipate the lifelong impact of my decision to run for public office nearly 14 years ago.”
Among the legislative actions he cited were leading efforts to relocate the Utah State Prison; restore the Great Salt Lake; expand funding for state parks, public education and transportation; and cut taxes by some $1 billion.
Wilson said he’s “excited for my next chapter and have full confidence in my peers in the House, Senate, and executive branch to continue making Utah the best place to live, learn, work, and play.”
Gov. Spencer Cox posted that Wilson “has served Utah with dignity and diligence for the past 14 years and has been an advocate for his constituents and all Utahns. We’re grateful for his commitment and principled leadership, and wish him all the best on his next chapter.”
Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said in a statement that Wilson will be missed.
“For decades, I have had the privilege of calling Brad a friend and a trusted colleague. It has been an honor serving alongside Speaker Wilson in partnership every day to improve our great state,” Adams said.
The Senate president said the pair have been able “to navigate challenges and accomplish great things for Utahns and Utah. I commend him for his service and dedication to the people of Utah.”
House and Senate Democrats also said they appreciated Wilson’s commitment to the state.
“Over his 12 years of unwavering service, Speaker Wilson has consistently demonstrated his dedication to bipartisanship and adherence to proper procedures,” the House minority caucus said in a statement.
Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake, acknowledged Wilson’s years of service and “significant contributions to the Utah Legislature,” commending him “for his commitment to the people of Utah and his efforts to find common ground.”
The Utah Democratic Party offered a harsh assessment of Wilson’s work in the Legislature.
“In his time as Speaker of the House, Brad Wilson and the GOP supermajority have overseen some of the most divisive and partisan legislation in the history of our state,” Utah Democratic Party Chair Diane Lewis said.
“From brutally gerrymandering our districts, to pushing through school vouchers, to relentlessly attacking trans kids, to ripping reproductive freedom away from thousands of Utah women, Wilson’s record, and the record of the Utah Republican Party, is one of right-wing extremism,” she said.