August Miller, Deseret Morning News
Joe Cannon speaks during the Utah Republican state convention in 2005.

Joe Cannon said Thursday that he's resigning as chairman of the Utah Republican Party immediately.

Vice Chairwoman Enid Greene, a former U.S. House member from Utah, will take over the chairman's duties until the party's central committee can pick a new chairman, probably some time in February, Cannon said. That person will serve out his term until August, when state party delegates will pick new party leaders to two-year terms.

Greene said as of now she has no plans to run for chairman next summer. "I want to finish the job Joe and I started" when she was first picked as vice chairman three years ago.

"If there is a draft-Enid movement, we'll see. But when was the last time that's happened in our party," she said, joking about some of the controversial GOP intra-party activities of recent years.

Cannon, who is also a member of the board of directors of the Deseret Morning News, told a group of GOP leaders his decision Thursday morning as they met to discuss party finances.

"I actually thought about this for several months," Cannon said. "I decided some months ago, in the summer, that it was time for me to step away from a public partisan profile. I didn't want to do it before the election — after all I was elected (party chairman) to help the party during this (November) election."

Cannon was elected for three terms as party chairman, telling delegates in August 2005 that he wouldn't be seeking re-election again.

Cannon said he believes Utah Republicans did "very good" in last week's election. If other state GOP parties had done as well, the U.S. Congress wouldn't be going to Democrats, he added.

Both Greene and GOP executive director Jeff Hartley are more than capable of directing the party's operation, Cannon said.

"I wouldn't be stepping down if I did not have absolute confidence in Enid and Jeff," he said.

The Thursday morning meeting of GOP leaders was actually called to get input on how to retire upwards of $100,000 of party debt, left over from this year's campaigns.

Cannon said it is not unusual to have some debt after a big election, and his leaving now has nothing to do with that. "Enid has her hand to the plow" and is ready to help fund raise to get the party moving financially forward, said Cannon.

An attorney and lobbyist, Cannon is often in Washington, D.C., and in other states advocating for his clients. But he's been doing that job for several years now, and said work-related pressures is not the reason he's leaving early.

Asked what his major accomplishment has been over the past five and a half years at Utah's major party post, Cannon said when he first took over in 2001 "there were any number of tensions" among different GOP factions. He said he believes he's calmed some of those by trying to have a more open party decision-making process.

On the political front, Cannon has overseen a large-candidate field for the 2004 governor's race and seen GOP incumbents and candidate win races up and down the ballot.