Dean Samuels, a Midvale educator and political newcomer, joined the governor's contest Wednesday, challenging Gov. Norm Bangerter for the Republican nomination and pledging to battle taxes.
"I am here to tell you that the race for governor has finally begun," said Samuels, making his announcement before a half-dozen supporters in a downtown hotel in Salt Lake City.Samuels, who supports a tax initiative to lower taxes "if that's what it takes," said tourism is the answer to increasing revenues without reaching into the taxpayer's pocketbook.
"My first order of business as governor will be to work . . . to create the finest tourist industry in America," he said.
Raising the nation's awareness of Utah as a major tourist attraction is the quickest and least costly way to bring "desperately needed revenue" into the state while thwarting a need to raise taxes.
"The reason we have such big taxes is that we don't have enough revenue," Samuels said, adding that more state income is necessary before business can be attracted to the state.
Samuels, a math and computer instructor at Jordan High School and a former superintendent for the Firth, Idaho, School District, said he supports an increase in education spending but not funded by a tax hike.
With the decision by Jon Huntsman to duck from the governor's race bringing about an air of Republican Party unity, GOP bosses H. Craig Moody said Samuels' entry will not upset any Republican harmony in this year's race.
"We don't anticipate there would be any disruption in terms of party unity," he said, adding that after a "good conversation" with Samuels, Moody believes the challenger is "supportive of the party."
"We've maintained all along that our party is an open party," Moody said. However, "as a newcomer, it's going to be extremely difficult for him (Samuels) to have any real impact."
Samuels joins Bangerter on the Republican Party ticket. Democrat Ted Wilson, facing an inter-party challenge from Orem Physician David E. Hewett, and independent candidate Merrill Cook will also vie for the governorship.