Laurel Price
Laurel Price

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah GOP has hired a new executive director, Laurel Price, who served as a top aide to former 4th District Congresswoman Mia Love, who lost the seat to Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams in last year's election.

State Republican Party Chairman Derek Brown said Price will be key to taking back the seat. Love, who served two terms, has already said she's ready to run again if no candidates emerge that she believes can defeat McAdams.

"Because of Laurel's unique experience, she knows the 4th Congressional District inside and out, and this knowledge will be instrumental in winning that election in 2020 — one of our top priorities," Brown said.

Price was most recently Love's district director, a post she held since January 2015. Prior to that, Price was Love's scheduler during her first, failed bid for Congress in 2012, and her campaign's operations director the following two years.

She said she's continued to assist Love, now a CNN commentator, with her work for the cable news network as well as social media, but that would change if Love gets in the race.

"In this new role, I have to be neutral," Price said. "We have a lot of great Republican candidates out there that are testing the waters for the 4th District. It's obviously very early and we'll start to see things take shape."

She said she's been "really happy to see the party come together" under Brown. "I'm really excited to participate and do my part to continue to help the Republican Party stay strong and be even stronger in supporting candidates."

Love "unfortunately" did not get the resources she needed from the state party in the last election, Price said. "That's going to be different this time."

Price is the first major hire by Brown, elected by state party delegates in April after promising to dig the Utah GOP out of a debt that totaled more than $100,000 and heal a yearslong rift from a failed legal battle over a controversial election law.

The GOP has raised enough to pay all its bills and "is seeing unity and strength that we have not seen in years," Brown said. "Now our focus is on winning elections in 2020, and Laurel's background in the political arena will be pivotal in our success."

Besides retaking the seat in the 4th District that includes portions of Salt Lake and Utah counties, Democrats also made gains in the Utah Legislature in the 2018 election.

McAdams' campaign manager, Andrew Roberts, had no comment about Price's hire.

Price said she's scheduled to start her new job toward the end of the month so she can spend time with her son, a U.S. Army Ranger scheduled to return home this weekend after an extended deployment.

Love told the Deseret News earlier this week that she now intends to decide quickly whether to enter the race rather than waiting until the fall. She has said other candidates in the race so far aren't strong enough to win.

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The candidates who have announced so far include Kathleen Anderson, a former Davis County GOP secretary who served as communications director for the state party when her husband, Rob, was chairman.

Among the other Republicans looking at the race are state Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert, R-Orem; state Rep. Jefferson Moss, R-Saratoga Springs; state Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan; former KSL Newsradio host Jay Mcfarland; and Utah County Commissioner Nathan Ivie.

Love has said she could support Hemmert or Moss and has plans to talk with Coleman. She said her own "fundraising mechanisms" are still in place and she is prepared "to turn on that faucet" if needed.