Sources tell UtahPolicy.com that Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes will not run for re-election this year.
Hughes, R-Draper, who entered the Legislature in 2002, is the popular two-term speaker, and had previously told UtahPolicy that if he did not seek re-election to his speakership, he would step out of the House altogether.
In other words, Hughes has decided not to run for a third term as speaker, and decided to leave the House.
One source told UtahPolicy that “if he gets treated” by Gov. Gary Herbert or other lawmakers or lobbyists “like a lame duck, he will become a wounded wolf.”
Hughes is known for his blunt, boxer-like, approach to politics. And he’s been known to have a temper, although that has remained much in check in recent years.
Last year, Hughes turned to talk radio to quickly go after Democratic Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski after she briefly attempted to slow down the closure of a city street in the homeless-provider part of town – a closure Hughes and other homeless/anti-violence advocates said was critically needed.
So you cross Hughes at your own political risk.
Hughes, who is interested in the open governor’s seat in 2020, had a tough decision to make this year:
He could run for re-election to his House seat and seek to be a third-term speaker. Utah has had only one three-term speaker in modern times.
Then he would have been in the thick of state politics when he ran for governor or some other higher seat in 2020.
Or he could step out of the House in 2018 and take several months off before starting a larger campaign headed for 2020.
Both have advantages and pitfalls.
As the most powerful lawmaker – as the speaker is usually seen – Hughes would be liable for any missteps the Legislature may take over the next two years.
But he would have the high profile of the speakership to run for governor or some other office.
The late-Gov. Norm Bangerter used the speakership to run successfully for governor in 1984.
However, several other speakers have tried for higher office and failed.
Outside of the House, Hughes could separate himself from state governance – both from what the Legislature does and what Herbert does in his final two years.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is clearly interested in the governorship in 2020.
As a GOP speaker, Hughes would be called upon to support Herbert’s administration – and thus Cox.
Outside of the Legislature, Hughes can become a critic of Herbert/Cox, and separate himself from some of the Republican-controlled state government decisions and actions over the next two years.
UtahPolicy confirmed Wednesday that Hughes is interested in a comeback race in 2020 – most likely governor. But others could be up as well.
For example, Hughes could challenge GOP Rep. John Curtis in the 3rd Congressional District if Curtis appears to be more moderate than Republicans in that conservative district.
Who will replace Hughes as speaker will be decided by the majority House GOP caucus soon after the November election.
Certainly, House Majority Leader Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, will be interested, as may House Majority Whip Frances Gibson, R-Mapleton.
But when there is a speaker’s slot open, any number of House Republicans will be looking to step up to the top job.