Utah GOP state party chair Carson Jorgensen is not running for reelection. Here’s who could replace him
Candidates, announced and rumored, told the Deseret News why GOP state delegates should elect them at the April convention
Utah Republican Party Chairman Carson Jorgensen told the Deseret News that he is not running for reelection after serving in his position for one term. Instead, he is looking at running for elected office in 2024, he said.
“I was going to wait until the (state legislative) session was over to formally announce that I’m not going to run for reelection,” Jorgensen said in an interview. “And yes, I am planning on running for something in 2024, but I don’t know what it is yet.”
Jorgensen was elected in 2021 as head of the state GOP’s first leadership team that was made up entirely of millennials. The administration team, consisting of Vice Chair Jordan Hess, Secretary Olivia Dawn and Treasurer Mike Bird, is “very proud” of how they lifted the party out of debt, Jorgensen said.
The party had over $400,000 in debt at one time back in 2019, Jorgensen said, which was referenced by multiple party leaders in interviews. Previous GOP Chairman “Derek Brown did an excellent job raising money,” Jorgensen said. The party had “less than $50k in debt” when Jorgensen took over in 2021. He won election in part due to campaign promises to pay down the debt without giving wealthy donors undue influence over the party.
“It’s been a tough slog to get money raised,” he said. “But we’ve been able to do it in a way that’s different by not using big donors as ATMs and instead doing it through a lot of small dollar donations.”
He acknowledged that he “took a lot of flack” last year for not allowing the Utah Debate Commission to moderate the debates for the GOP primary races, but said he would make the same choice again.
Jorgensen said he was concerned about “outside meddling” in Republican primary races. When asked for specifics, he mentioned the current signature gathering rules that allow a candidate to bypass the party convention. He said he’s been working on “modifying” the system because “it’s of utmost importance to Republicans control their own elections.”
Who wants to lead the Utah GOP?
Jorgensen’s announcement has led to a game of musical chairs among the party’s officers.
All four GOP state party leadership positions will be up for election on April 22 at the party’s organizing convention, which will be held at Utah Valley University.
Bird, the current GOP party treasurer, was the first candidate to announce his campaign to become the new party chair. Bird has already started reaching out to delegates and launched his campaign via social media.
Another potential candidate for party chair is Robert Axson, who works as the state director for Utah Sen. Mike Lee. Axson also previously served as vice chair of the state party. Multiple party insiders confirmed his name is being heavily circulated and he could have broad support if he chooses to run.
Axson declined to comment for this article and hasn’t made an official announcement yet on whether he will run for the position.
Hess, the current vice chair, told the Deseret News he considered running for chair but decided against it and is running instead for reelection to his current position.
Jorgensen said he is pleased with the potential choices delegates have to replace him. “Rob and Mike are phenomenal, we can’t ask for better candidates to run the party. I trust them both implicitly,” he said.
In an interview with the Deseret News, Bird said he is running on three priorities for the party: “Growing the party, increasing our influence and keeping Utah red.” He also heavily emphasized the importance of the party being financially solvent.
“This is my fourth year serving as treasurer and I’m happy to say we are debt free and have money in the bank,” he said. Bird praised both leadership teams he’s worked with, noting their different “styles” and “areas of focus.”
He said the party can now focus its attention on more pressing issues that he wants to address as party chair.
“We’ve kind of lost track of growing our party,” Bird said, while warning that the state is growing at a faster rate than party membership. “We need to refocus our time, energy and resources on getting new members.”
Hess brought up similar points when talking about his vision for the future. “Next year is going to be a big year for elections in Utah and I want the party to be able to help our nominees more.” He also mentioned strengthening GOP caucus attendance and voter participation by potentially holding Utah’s presidential preference caucus on the same night.
Each candidate so far indicated they will run independently for state party office positions and welcomed the potential of working with each other. “The party will be lucky to have either Mike or Rob and I have nothing but positive things to say about both of them,” Hess said.