Utah Republican delegates will hear from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during the party's organizing convention next month.
DeSantis, who is widely believed to be gearing up to challenge former President Donald Trump for the GOP's presidential nomination in 2024, will speak in person as the keynote speaker, state party Chairman Carson Jorgensen confirmed.
But Jorgensen said the party is more focused on DeSantis' work as governor, and his visit to Utah isn't related to his potential presidential run.
"Everybody sees it as such," Jorgensen said. "But as of now, those things we focus on is him as governor and what he's done within that state and we've wanted to stay out of that. We don't want this to bleed over into, 'Oh, this is us leaning toward him, or this is us pushing against Trump or (Nikki) Haley.' This is just strictly into ... the things he's done as governor."
Haley, a former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the United Nations early on in Trump's administration, announced her 2024 presidential primary campaign last month.
Several prominent Utah Republicans have already began to position DeSantis as the most prominent alternative to Trump. Eighty-six elected Republicans signed an open letter in November urging DeSantis to run, though they didn't identify Trump by name.
"We need a leader who will strengthen and unify the nation. Gov. Ron DeSantis serves his country and state well and skillfully navigated the many challenges Florida faced during his first term," state Sens. Dan McCay, Todd Weiler and Mike McKell said in a joint statement.
Jorgensen said DeSantis was invited to speak after party leaders "looked around the country" to find politicians who are making significant impact.
"His name just came up time and time again," Jorgensen said. "We saw what he did to the voting patterns of the state and how he was able to create larger margins, so that's something that we wanted to see and hear of and really try to replicate here in the state."
DeSantis' "pushback" against big corporations and his efforts to "protect children" are some of the policies Jorgensen said he wants to emulate.
"Those are some things that we've championed as conservative causes and even took some part in at the state level," he said. "How leaning on those conservative principles has created a better voting demographic (in Florida) is something that's just kind of astounding to watch."
DeSantis has frequently decried "wokeness" and has been engaged in an ongoing public feud with the Walt Disney Company after it publicly opposed his law that restricts classroom instruction of gender and sexual orientation, which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
The 2023 Utah Republican convention will be held April 22 at Utah Valley University.