‘I’ve really enjoyed my time as Speaker’: Wilson resigns from Legislature for likely Senate run

St. George News — Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson announced Monday he is resigning from the Legislature next month.

While he wouldn’t confirm the likelihood of plans to run for the U.S. Senate seat Sen. Mitt Romney plans to vacate at the end of his term, Wilson’s Senate Exploratory Committee is set to to issue a “special announcement” about it next week.

Wilson was in St. George Monday at Utah Tech University along with the rest of the Legislature for one of its monthly interim committee sessions. The event was highlighted as the first time interim committee hearings had been held outside Salt Lake City.

“Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way,” Wilson told reporters as he stood next to Senate President J. Stuart Adams. “We can talk about my potential Senate bid another time. We’re here today to talk about the Legislature’s interim work and long-term planning conference.”

The Davis County Republican said he didn’t want any talk of his senatorial aspirations to take away from the work the Legislature was doing in St. George. Still, he added that he has valued the work he has done as a state lawmaker.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time as Speaker of the House,” he said. “I feel like we’ve made a meaningful difference.”

Both Adams and Wilson have served in their respective leadership positions since late 2018.

Wilson said he’s been encouraged by Adams and others to look into running for the Senate and earlier this year created an exploratory committee to look into the possibility of running. That committee will issue a “special announcement” on Sept. 27. Adding to the reasons he is leaving state office, Wilson said he cannot represent his district and be the House Speaker while having his attention divided by running a Senate campaign.

“I thought it was in the best interest of the Legislature and people of Utah to have a full-time Speaker of the House, so that’s why I tendered my resignation today so a new Speaker can get elected and a legislative session can get ramped up and the work can get done for the people of Utah,” he said.

While an official announcement has yet to be made about his future plans, Wilson filed to run for U.S. Senate in April.

Wilson’s last day as the House Speaker will be Nov. 15. House Majority Leader Mike Schultz has said he plans to run for the Speaker position following Wilson’s departure.

News of Wilson’s pending resignation has drawn reactions from other state leaders, lawmakers and party chairs.

Adams issued his own statement saying what a privilege it had been to work with Wilson in the Legislature. Conversely, the chair of the Utah Democratic Party, Diane Lewis, said Wilson’s time as speaker had “overseen some of the most divisive and partisan legislation in the history of our state.”

“For decades, I have had the privilege of calling Brad a friend and a trusted colleague,” Adams said. “It has been an honor serving alongside Speaker Wilson in partnership every day to improve our great state.

“We have successfully 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. We will miss his presence at the Utah Legislature.”

Lewis’ statement was far less complimentary of Wilson and the Republican super-majority in the Legislature overall.

“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,” Lewis said. “As he embarks on a campaign for Senate, we will continue to remind Utahns of that record.”

Gov. Spencer Cox also commented on the Wilson’s resignation over social media.

“Speaker Wilson has served Utah with dignity and diligence for the past 14 years and has been an advocate for his constituents and all Utahns,” the governor said. “We’re grateful for his commitment and principled leadership, and wish him all the best on his next chapter.”