SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Businessman Jeff Burningham announced his candidacy for Utah governor Tuesday, becoming the second Republican candidate to officially enter what could become a crowded field.
The technology and real estate entrepreneur from Provo pitched himself as a political outsider who would keep the state’s strong economy running smoothly and modernize the education system.
“There’s a mismatch between what children are learning and the jobs that exist and are coming,” said Burningham, who has four children.
Increasing funding for education in a state that perennially ranks last in the country in funding per student could be one way to bring about change, he said.
The 42-year-old said he also would conduct a wide-ranging audit of state government on his first day on the job to ensure it’s being run as efficiently as possible.
Managing growth in the state’s cities as well as rural Utah’s frustration with federal management of public lands are also top issues, he said.
Burningham runs a $2 billion real estate investment company as well as a venture capital firm that invests in startup companies. He long has been politically active, raising money for candidates and serving as a GOP precinct chairman, but the governor’s race marks his first political race.
He has been holding a listening tour with voters since January.
Burningham has already amassed some $585,000 for his campaign, about $100,000 of which he loaned to himself. The other Republican in the race, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, has raised about $388,000, with about $50,000 coming from Gov. Gary Herbert’s political action committee.
They’re facing off for the job that will be left open next year by Herbert, a Republican who decided not to run again.
Others said to be considering bids are former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes and former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who announced his resignation as U.S. ambassador to Russia last month.