Three years ago, any and all convenient political narratives held by self-made millionaire Jason Walton were shattered at the news of his daughter’s death by suicide.

The world has never looked the same way since, Walton told the Deseret News editorial board on Thursday.

“It’s like a grenade going off in your soul — constantly,” Walton said. “Our whole family is changed; we’re different, there’s different priorities, you see the world differently.”

Now, as a Republican candidate for Mitt Romney’s U.S. Senate seat, the Moxie Pest Control founder and CEO says he intends to reveal Washington, D.C., for what he thinks it truly is — a place where career politicians’ main focus is “enriching themselves financially or politically.”

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“I look at the country and I’m deeply concerned and I ask myself, ‘What kind of country are we leaving to our kids?’ Because it looks to me like we’re selling their birthright,” Walton said. “We’re saddling our children and grandchildren with generational debt and our politicians seem to be playing some type of political games with our border.”

Walton believes Americans are also beginning to see through what he says are the empty promises of the status quo. According to Walton, voters will begin to elect a wave of political-neophyte businessmen — in the mode of Donald Trump — to return the country to the constitutional principles that first made America great.

“And, to me, that’s not a political talking point,” Walton said. “It’s the thing that made me say, ‘Get up off the couch,’ and ‘I’m going to do something about it.’ Somebody has to do something about it.”

Taking a company — and a country — from scratch to success

By Walton’s telling, Moxie Pest Control began as an MBA resume-builder in a garage and grew to become one of the largest pest control companies in the United States because of one rule of thumb: define your success and pursue it through true principles.

In a long shot effort to outrun a field of GOP political veterans — including Rep. John Curtis, former state House Speaker Brad Wilson and Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs — Walton has committed to replicate this “principle-centered strategy” to restore “conservative constitutional governance” to the halls of Congress.

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The “drastic measures” required to repair a “fractured” Constitution can only be made by “business leaders” like himself, Walton said, “who have no strings attached to them, that don’t owe political favors to people and who aren’t seeking political advancement when they get into office.”

His independence as a political newcomer with personal wealth will free him to apply the principles that “made the United States go from nothing to the greatest civilization ever,” Walton said.

If elected, Walton said his agenda would include replacing top GOP leadership with senators he aligns with. His first pick to replace Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell? Sen. Mike Lee. Walton cites Utah’s senior senator — who has been his occasional Sunday School teaching companion — as a rare political role model.

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Passing Lee’s REINS Act would be one of his priorities, he said. The legislation would require Congress to approve rules passed by executive agencies that have more than a $100 million impact on the economy.

Walton said “getting things done” in divided government can often mean just voting “no.” But beyond tanking spending bills, Walton said business people like him are the ones ready and willing to create a plan to reform the welfare programs driving national debt by privatizing them “over time” without breaking commitments to those who have already invested significantly into the system.

U.S. Senate candidate Jason Walton meets with the Deseret News Editorial Board at the Deseret News office in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 11, 2024. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Do Americans want to be led by business people?

Americans feel that the country is at a tipping point that “career politicians” are unsuited to fix, according to Walton. This is why they will start sending more and more business leaders to Washington and continue to support the former president by the millions, he said.

“He’s speaking the minds and wills of people, and people perceive that he has the courage to go and make decisions that other people won’t make and they’re business decisions,” Walton said. “He thinks differently. He doesn’t think and act like a politician.”

Walton called Trump “the most maligned presidential candidate or president in the history of the United States” and said he “possesses the traits and the knowledge and the skill of what America needs right now.”

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On the lighting rod issues of Ukraine aid and abortion, Walton is unified with the former president.

Although he thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a threat to the world,” Walton doesn’t support any additional U.S. support for the country Russia invaded two years ago.

Walton said he thinks a significant amount of American resources go missing upon arriving in Ukraine — though he acknowledged he doesn’t have evidence to support such a claim. He also thinks it is not in America’s interest to continue spending more than any other country to defend Ukraine and that spending more would not make the world more safe.

Walton echoed Trump’s recently announced position on abortion, saying he is pro-life and believes that after the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, abortion law should be left to the states. Elevating the issue to the federal level would allow “New York and California” to have a say in how abortion is treated in Utah.

Does Walton have a path to victory?

When asked how his campaign is going, Walton said he’s having “a lot of fun for someone that was disillusioned with politics” and has discovered that many state delegates share his ideological views.

The Republican state convention will be held on April 27. Candidates who receive more than 40% of delegate votes, or who have gathered enough verified signatures, will appear on the primary ballot on June 25.

Walton is one of three Senate candidates, including Curtis and Wilson, who have gathered the requisite 28,000 signatures to qualify for the primary. Staggs and conservative political adviser Carolyn Phippen are candidates who have chosen to pursue a convention-only path to the primary.

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The GOP nominee who emerges from the primary will face off against the nominees from other registered political parties in the Nov. 5 general election.

Other Republican candidates, besides those already named, include attorney Brent Hatch, certified public accountant Josh Randall, Bookroo founder Chandler Tanner, Brian Jenkins and Jeremy Friedbaum.

The Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate in Utah include mountaineer Caroline Gleich, Archie Williams III and Laird Hamblin.