PROVO — Utah tea party organizer David Kirkham launched his bid for governor Wednesday, promising the most open and transparent government the state has ever known.
"I see very, very, very little that should be hidden in government. Doors should be open. Meetings should be open," he said. "People need to know what is going on in government."
Gov. Gary Herbert's administration, he said, hasn't been as transparent as it could be. "I think they could do better."
The Provo Republican's first try for elected office wasn't unexpected. He began seriously considering it last fall and earlier this month said it was "virtually assured" that he would enter the race.
It wasn't an easy decision, he said.
Kirkham runs Kirkham Motorsports, a successful custom sports car manufacturing company he founded with his brother Thomas in 1994. Kirkham said he would turn the company reins over to his brother while he runs for governor.
Much of the company's work is done in a former aircraft factory in Poland. Working in Poland and serving an LDS Church mission in Peru, he said, gave him firsthand knowledge of what socialism does to people.
"I've come to realize these socialistic policies ... really hurt the poor and that's what I stand against," he said.
Government that is closest to the people and governs least governs best, he said.
Kirkham said he used to vote straight-party Republican until he realized not all Republicans are the same, noting GOP support for Troubled Assets Relief Program and government bailouts.
"I decided to stand up against it," he said, adding that's when he organized the tea party in Utah two years ago.
One of his top priorities as governor, he said, would be to repeal HB116, the controversial guest worker program for undocumented immigrants Utah lawmakers approved last year. Illegal immigration, he said, is a complicated issue.
"The simple answer is immigration is a federal issue. And I am very opposed to squandering Utah's resources, time and effort on issues that simply cannot be decided on a state level. We can't have 50 different immigration laws," he said.
As governor, Kirkham said, he would do whatever it takes to open up federal lands to oil, gas and mineral extraction as means to bring revenue to the state and fund public education. At the same time, he said, he would also protect the state's national parks and public lands.
"Utahns will not leave Utah a mess. We will clean it up," he said, adding he would bond to do that if necessary.
"Any legal way possible I will push back and fight the federal government at all levels so that Utah can run Utah," he said.
Kirkham is the third Republican to challenge Herbert. State Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork, and former GOP congressional hopeful Morgan Philpot announced their candidacies last fall.