Jonathan Johnson, chairman of Overstock.com, commenced his campaign for Utah governor at Cottonwood Heights Tuesday night amongst a crowd of 500 potential supporters.
Johnson will be running against fellow republican and current Governor of Utah, Gary Herbert, in November 2016. Since both nominees are Republicans, Johnson will have to overcome the hurdle of distinguishing himself among voters.
“I know first hand what Utah businesses need to flourish in this state,” Johnson said at the kickoff event. “I also know that strong leadership and business principles applied in government could take Utah from a good state to a great state.”
The main topics Johnson addressed at the event, are also the most important issues to Utahns: education and the economy, according to 2015 UtahPolicy.com poll.
“I want to improve our education, more localization, more collaboration, and more personalization,” said Johnson. “I want to create a leveled playing field for our businesses, not pick winners and losers of out-of-state and in-state business or big businesses and small businesses.”
Johnson also outlined key points of his run for governor including getting rid of common core, taking back Utah’s public lands, lowering taxes, imposing term limits and reducing dependence on federal funds.
“I like smaller government, I like government closer to home,” said Johnson. “The closer the decisions are made to home, the better.”
Johnson has worked for Overstock.com since 2002 in leadership and legal positions. Before that, Johnson worked in several law firms in the Los Angeles area. He criticizes Governor Herbert for being a “professional politician.”
“We’ve got a governor who has been a politician for 26 years,” said Johnson. “He has been in the governor’s office for seven and a half years – that’s the better part of two years, that’s enough.”
Being a professional politician is a concern for some voters, including Rick Larsen, organizer of the Utah Term Limits Now campaign. The campaign’s intent is to follow the two-term limit for presidents in the U.S. Constitution, as well as the actions of 36 states that have set term limits on governors.
“I think there should be more opportunities to open up the executive level of government for fresh ideas,” said Larsen. “We should try to prevent the long-term accumulation of power.”
Governor Herbert totes the highest approval rating in the country, 71 percent, according to poll by Dan Jones & Associates. A fact that even Johnson admits will make the election “a tough race.”