SALT LAKE CITY — Republican candidate for governor Jonathan Johnson, Gov. Gary Herbert's challenger in Tuesday's primary election, rolled out his plans for his first 100 days in office and said the race is still up for grabs.
"I don't think it's decided," Johnson, chairman of Overstock.com, said at a news conference held at the Capitol Thursday, promising his campaign "will be in a full-tilt sprint until 8 p.m. on June 28."
Polls have shown Johnson trailing the governor, who took office in 2009 and is seeking his second full term, although Johnson's campaign has released internal polling showing a closer race.
Johnson has raised nearly half as much as the $2 million reported by the governor through mid-June in the most recent state financial disclosures. Herbert had almost $600,000 on hand, compared to just under $93,000 for Johnson.
Fundraising hasn't stopped for either campaign, with the governor collecting another $20,000 since the report was filed, while Johnson has brought in nearly another $79,000.
His plan, if he wins Tuesday and in November against Democratic nominee Mike Weinholtz, includes working to set term limits on the governor and the state's other elected executives and suing the federal government over public lands.
Other key issues Johnson said he would tackle were establishing education savings accounts, recruiting companies to relocate in Utah, and establishing an inspector general's office to investigate allegations of public corruption.
The governor's campaign manager, Marty Carpenter, said the list "is a mixture of things the governor has already done, things that aren't the purview of the governor and things he cannot do without legislative support."
Johnson said he had hoped to discuss his agenda in debates with Herbert, but their last debate was on April 11, sponsored by the Utah Federation of Republican Women and broadcast live on KSL Newsradio.
The governor has since turned down debate requests, including for a live debate on KSL-TV. The candidates have appeared together at a Utah Foundation event on March 24; and at the Utah Taxpayers Association annual conference on May 16.
At the top of Johnson's list is getting the 2017 Utah Legislature to pass a two-term constitutional limit on the governor and other executive officeholders that would have to go to voters in the next general election.
He said Utah is one of only 14 states that don't impose term limits on governors.
"In our one-party state, without natural tension between two parties, what we have is we basically elect a king," Johnson said, citing what he called a "disturbing trend" of governors leaving midterm and being replaced by a lieutenant governor.
Herbert was a lieutenant governor when he assumed the office from Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who was appointed U.S. ambassador to China by President Barack Obama in the first year of his second term. Gov. Mike Leavitt left his third term early to become administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in 2003 and Lt. Gov. Olene Walker became governor for the final months of his term.
Johnson also said the state has waited too long to sue the federal government over its control of public lands. Utah lawmakers are drafting a lawsuit but have said it might not be needed if Utah Rep. Rob Bishop's Public Lands Initiative is approved in Congress and the president does not declare a new Bears Ears National Monument.
He said his goal of getting lawmakers to approved education savings accounts that set aside state funding for parents to use is not a "quid pro quo" for the hefty campaign contributions made by Overstock.com founder Patrick Byrne, a supporter of school vouchers.
When it comes to economic development, Johnson said Utah cannot afford to "turn its nose up" at any type of job and pledged to go on a nationwide tour to visit his own business contacts to try to bring their companies to Utah.
His new inspector general he said, could be part of the office of Utah Auditor John Dougall, who has backed Johnson in the governor's race. Johnson said that could replace the legislative auditor general's office, although lawmakers may be "very jealous" and decide to keep it.
"I think we ought to get it centralized and running efficient rather than having people do the same things," Johnson said of fielding concerns about government. He said he hoped an inspector general's office would not become politicized.