SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton named John Dougall, Utah’s state auditor, as her running mate Tuesday in her race to become Utah governor.
In a video announcement released online, Winder Newton said because of the state’s looming economic challenges, “it is more important than ever for us to have a conservative team who can lead us into the future” and noted Dougall “is also known as ‘Frugal Dougall.’”
He said on the video she’s referred to as “the budget hawk.” Dougall also pointed out that when he ran for the statewide auditor’s office in 2012, he “didn’t have big financial backing. I took my case directly to the delegates and I’m proud of Aimee’s delegate-driven campaign.”
Winder Newton recently decided to stop gathering voter signatures to secure a spot on the June primary ballot and instead is focusing on the state Republican Party convention, where delegates can advance up to two candidates to the primary.
Dougall served in the Utah Legislature for a decade before being elected auditor in 2012. He was reelected four years later and has already filed for a third term as John “Frugal” Dougall and said he will drop out of that race if delegates put the Winder Newton ticket on the ballot.
Because Dougall is the only Republican to file for state auditor before the March 19 filing deadline, he is set to be nominated by acclamation for that position at the GOP state convention. The convention, being held virtually this year because of the new coronavirus pandemic, is on April 25.
But the deadline for filing for lieutenant governor isn’t until two days later and state law permits a candidate for another office to file for lieutenant governor if they withdraw from the other race. If Dougall ends his bid for state auditor after the convention, it will be up to the Republican State Central Committee to name a new GOP nominee.
“I recognize this is a unique situation but clearly we’re in unique times right now,” Dougall said. “My plan was to run for reelection as auditor. But as I look at the situation with coronavirus, the impact that it’s having ... (an) economic crisis of such a magnitude that we probably haven’t seen in our lifetimes, that caused me to change my plans.”
Winder Newton said Utah “is going to need strong leaders who understand budgets, who know how we can get through the tax reform situation but also look to get our state’s economy back on track. John and I are a good team for that. So I’m thrilled to have him on my ticket because he’s one of the premier budget experts in the state.”
There was some criticism Tuesday of Dougall joining the ticket, with state Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, tweeting, “Sad to report that John Dougall has selfishly decided to simultaneously run for two state-wide offices. This is not good for the state, and not good for the Utah GOP.”
Weiler, who has endorsed Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox for governor, said later that if Dougall “wanted to be lieutenant governor, he should have not filed for reelection as state auditor. I’m sure a lot of other good candidates would have come forward.”
Winder Newton said the only reaction she’s seeing “is from supporters of other gubernatorial candidates who are trying to make an issue with it. That just tells me I made a good pick. They know John gives me a great chance at winning convention and helping me to the end of the campaign in a positive manner. I think they’re afraid of that.”
She said she wanted Dougall to stay in the state auditor’s race.
“That one’s on me. I didn’t want John to drop that. Because if for some reason we didn’t make it through convention I wanted him to still have the opportunity to run for auditor,” Winder Newton said. “That was part of our agreement.”
Winder Newton is one of seven Republicans seeking to succeed Gov. Gary Herbert, who is not running for reelection after more than a decade in office, and the latest to name her pick for lieutenant governor.
Former Utah GOP Chairman Thomas Wright added Congressman Rob Bishop to his gubernatorial ticket in January, then former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. selected Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi as his running mate in February, and last week, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox chose state Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, as his No. 2, and Jan Garbett chose a doctor, Joe Jarvis.
Other Republican candidates, former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes and businessman Jeff Burningham, have yet to name their pick for lieutenant governor.