Utah’s second highest-ranking elected official endorsed presidential candidate Nikki Haley in her bid to become the Republican Party’s nominee over former President Donald Trump.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, who serves as the state’s chief election officer and secretary of state, joined first lady Abby Cox, and a consortium of state lawmakers, business leaders and political influencers on Thursday to announce their support for the campaign of the former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the United Nations under Trump.

“We can take nothing for granted in this constitutional republic,” Henderson said at a press conference in the Utah Capitol’s presentation room.

“Nikki Haley is a proven leader and a proven listener,” she said. “Nikki Haley is the only Republican candidate who beats the incumbent (President Joe Biden) by 17 points. We cannot afford to sleepwalk into our future. It’s time for a new generation of leadership in the White House. It’s time for President Nikki Haley.”

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Gathered behind a rostrum with a “Nikki Haley for president” sign, Henderson and her fellow endorsers were introduced by State Sen. Michael McKell, R-Spanish Fork, as the “Utah leadership team” for Haley’s 2024 campaign.

“In the presidential election of 2024, our country has a choice. We can move past the politics of fear, division and uncertainty and support a principled conservative leader who rejects the drama of D.C.,” McKell said.

The complete list of Utah leaders who endorsed Haley on Thursday includes:

  • Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson.
  • First lady Abby Cox.
  • State Sen. Michael McKell,.
  • State Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City.
  • State Senate Majority Whip Ann Millner, R-Ogden.
  • State House Majority Assistant Whip Casey Snider, R-Paradise.
  • Former state House Speaker Nolan Karras.
  • Former Utah Rep. Rob Bishop.
  • Clyde Companies Chief Strategy Officer and former U.S. Senate candidate Ally Isom.
  • FJ Management CEO Crystal Maggelet.
  • Utah Department of Commerce Executive Director Margaret Busse.
  • President and CEO of Zions Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson.

In July, 17 Utah lawmakers, including Utah Senate President Stuart Adams, endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during his visit to the state Capitol.

Cox said her husband, Gov. Spencer Cox, had not “chosen to endorse anybody yet.”

“We invite both our fellow Utahns, as well as every American voter, to consider Nikki Haley’s solid leadership record on both domestic and foreign policy,” Abby Cox said. “She brings a steady hand, communicates a clear and honest path forward and never shrinks from principle.”

Haley has experienced a steady rise in the polls since the first Republican debate last summer. Just days away from the Iowa caucuses, which mark the beginning of the Republican primary season, Haley surpassed DeSantis in an Iowa state poll for the first time, with 20% of likely caucusgoers saying Haley is their first choice, and 13% saying the same of DeSantis, according to The Washington Post.

Both runner-ups face a massive deficit against the former president of more than 30 percentage points in Iowa and up to 50 percentage points in national polls.

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A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll conducted in October showed Trump leading among Utah Republican voters, garnering 30% of the vote, with DeSantis trailing at 14% and Haley at 13%.

But Henderson said Haley’s recent surge is a sign that “her message is resonating with Republican voters” and said the Utah leadership team for Haley timed their announcement to boost Haley in early primary states.

“She is proving that she is the leader, the type of leader that Republicans want, that America wants,” Henderson said. “We certainly hope that we’re adding our voice to the momentum that’s building in support of Nikki Haley.”

The Utah Republican Party announced last summer it would bypass the Super Tuesday primary in favor of holding a presidential preference poll during caucus meetings held throughout the state the same evening.

This would limit participation to registered Republican voters who can attend the caucus in person. Henderson said she supports the decision of the Utah Republican Party to select the process by which it determines support for a certain candidate and added that she didn’t think procedural change would negatively impact Haley’s chances in the state.

“I don’t think the (preference) poll hurts Nikki Haley,” Henderson said. “Everybody is welcome, who is a registered Republican, welcome to attend caucus night and have their voice heard.”