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Political newcomer Ryan Nielson enters race for Utah governor

Ryan Nielson announces his candidacy for Utah governor Monday at the state Capitol.
Ryan Nielson announces his candidacy for Utah governor Monday at the state Capitol.
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

Ryan Nielson, a 33-year-old small-business owner, announced Monday that he plans to run for governor of Utah this year.

Nielson, a Republican, has no previous experience in politics and isn't interested in making it a career, but he said he thinks people will find that refreshing.

"People want others that are just like them to run for political office," said Nielson, a Sandy resident who owns Rhino Tops Inc., a countertop company in Murray.

He said he has talked to numerous Utah residents who have expressed an interest in a new candidate who is "of the people" and can adequately represent them, hear their voices and follow their requests. Nielson said he can be that candidate and plans a vigorous challenge to incumbent Gov. Gary Herbert for the Republican nomination.

"I've been feeling for quite some time now that we need to have a change in the direction of leadership in this country," Nielson said.

Nielson said he understands he is the underdog, jumping into the race against GOP Gov. Gary Herbert and his Democratic challenger, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, in November's special election for the remainder of former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s term. But he's not going to let that stop him. He said he thinks it is good to have competition, and he is excited to be another choice for people to consider.

"I'm going to be running as if I'm going to win," Nielson said.

Dave Hansen, chairman of the Utah Republican Party, said he had never heard of Nielson before he was contacted by reporters Monday asking about the announcement.

"I have no idea who he is or anything about him," Hansen said.

Hansen noted Herbert's popularity throughout the state, not just with Republicans, but with a wide range of voters.

"Anybody who takes him on has got a challenge ahead of him," Hansen said of Herbert.

Nielson began his announcement Monday by quoting the preamble of the U.S. Constitution.

"My platform aligns very closely with the Republican Party," Nielson said, but he said he is also aligned with the U.S. Founding Fathers.

Nielson expressed an interest in restoring power and voice back to individuals. He described the current government as broad and overreaching and said he is a simplistic person who will challenge the federal government.

Nielson, who was surrounded by family members and friends holding signs with his name as he made his announcement, said he believes in honesty, honor and patriotism.

"We have too many laws, legislations and government programs that have been leading us down the wrong path," Nielson said.

He also complained of taxation laws, saying Utahns are being taxed to the point of suffocation. He said he finds the current tax burdens Utahns face to be unconstitutional.

"My desire is to help Utah be a leader and an example," said Nielson, a self-described constitutionalist and capitalist.

He said he plans to make Utah self-reliant and self-sustaining by utilizing the resources and people within Utah.

A father of three boys, he repeatedly expressed his love for the U.S., and particularly the state of Utah.

"The United States of America is a choice nation," Nielson said. "Utah is a choice place because of the people here. Utah is full of the best people on earth."