SALT LAKE CITY — Republican gubernatorial candidate Aimee Winder Newton has stopped gathering voter signatures to qualify for the primary election ballot and says she’ll instead focus on winning the party’s nomination at the state convention.
Meantime, former Utah GOP Party chairman Thomas Wright became the second candidate to turn in signatures to the state elections office.
While more than 300 volunteers have collected thousands of signatures in the past month, the Winder Newton campaign said Wednesday it won’t reach the 28,000 signature threshold without paying for them. The campaign estimates it would cost at least $200,000 to hire a signature gathering company.
“There is not a single gubernatorial campaign that can get all of its signatures without paying for at least some of them,” said Winder Newton, a Salt Lake County councilwoman. “I supported a grassroots effort to engage with voters through the signature process, but I’d rather put my resources toward earning the voters’ support.”
Wright submitted 30,700 signatures Tuesday for a place on the primary ballot. The campaign used paid signature gatherers.
“I’m proud of my team and the fact that we’ll be on the ballot in June,” Wright said. “But there are some serious flaws in our elections process, and it’s past time we fixed them.”
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox turned in the requisite signatures for a spot on the ballot earlier this month. He used volunteers along with some paid college students.
Six Republicans are vying to succeed Gov. Gary Herbert, who isn’t seeking reelection. The others are former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., businessman Jeff Burningham and former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes.
All of the GOP candidates except Hughes have filed with the state to gather signatures, an optional path to the ballot that can be combined with competing to be nominated by delegates at the party’s state convention in April. Signatures are due two weeks before the convention.