SALT LAKE CITY — Utah gubernatorial candidate Jan Garbett announced her running mate Thursday, Dr. Joseph Jarvis, and unveiled a plan to balance public safety with her ongoing signature-gathering campaign amid increased steps to combat COVID-19.
“The people of Utah are feeling quite vulnerable right now and they may even be questioning whether their government leaders are thinking of their health and safety rather than their own political posturing or red tape, or bureaucracy,” Garbett said to reporters from the Utah Capitol rotunda steps Thursday morning.
Which is why Garbett said she brought Jarvis in as her running mate — a doctor and the founder of the Utah Health Policy Project. Jarvis is also a former Nevada state health officer.
“You will have a governor and a lieutenant governor who are prepared, who are experts in responding not politically, but to the health and well-being of the people of Utah. You will be my priority,” Garbett said.
Jarvis launched a bid for Congress in January as a United Utah Party candidate in the 2nd Congressional District, but decided to suspend his campaign to join Garbett, according to Daniel Friend, Jarvis’ communications director for his congressional campaign.
Drawing from his years in public health, Jarvis said they’ll be implementing various safe practices as they carry out the campaign, such as screening staff and conducting meetings online — especially as they continue to go door to door.
Garbett, like the majority of seven Republican candidates, filed with the state to gather voter signatures to earn a place on the June primary election ballot and will need to collect 28,000 statewide to qualify. Three others are not gathering signatures, opting instead to try and win a place at the state convention in April.
One of the candidates, businessman Jeff Burningham, suspended signature collecting last week, citing coronavirus concerns.
Given the challenges the coronavirus imposes, Garbett said she’s pleaded with the governor to use his emergency powers to intervene in the signature gathering process by lowering the signature threshold or allowing online collection, but “they have decided not to do anything.”
She said her campaign will continue to gather signatures to meet the April deadline and hopes the governor acts, but in the meantime, they’ll be undertaking additional efforts to ensure the public and her staff are safe as they go door to door.
“Utah’s governor has declared a state of emergency in response to this epidemic, but so far he has not chosen to use his emergency powers to change the signature gathering process,” Jarvis said. “We think it would be best if he would lower the requirement so not as many signatures would be needed.”
Jarvis said all canvassers will be screened for coronavirus and that he will personally review all of the responses of a questionnaire administered to campaign field workers. Signature gathers who may have been exposed or have any risk will be pulled from the field.
“When Utahns open their doors to greet canvassers from our campaign, they will be meeting someone who has been screened for risk and for the symptoms according to CDC guidelines,” Jarvis explained.
Additionally, campaign workers will not shake hands and will keep visits brief.
Following the press conference, Jarvis told the Deseret News that Utahns are at least “somewhat concerned about the fact that people may be showing up at their door asking for a signature,” which is why are going to do the best they can to assure the public and mitigate risk under the circumstances.
Garbett briefly ran for Congress in 2018 as a member of the United Utah Party and for lieutenant governor as a Democrat two years earlier. She announced her bid for governor Feb. 21 as a Republican in order to give voters who don’t support President Donald Trump a choice as “every single candidate has aligned” themself with the president — something Garbett said she cannot do.
“I will stand by my convictions and I’m not afraid to take a stand that might even be different than what some in the GOP might prefer,” Garbett said.
Seven Republicans are vying to replace Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, who is not seeking reelection after more than a decade in office.
Garbett is running against Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, former Utah GOP Chairman Thomas Wright and Burningham.
According to a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll published March 6, Huntsman continues to be the front-runner with 32% of 312 likely Utah primary voters. Cox follows with 20% and Garbett holds 1%.