SALT LAKE CITY — Greg Hartley, who holds the top administrative spot in the Utah House, said Monday he’s stepping down as chief of staff and expects to help run former House Speaker Greg Hughes’ anticipated bid for governor.
“I’ll probably be involved in the 2020 gubernatorial race, most likely with Hughes,” said Hartley, who served as chief of staff under Hughes as well as the current House speaker, Kaysville Republican Brad Wilson.
Hughes said that if he gets in the governor’s race, Hartley will have whatever role he wants in the campaign.
“Greg Hartley has the Midas touch,” Hughes said. “He is effective and accomplishes whatever he puts his focus and energy towards. For every public policy issue we took on during my time as speaker, Greg Hartley was the X-factor.”
He said Hartley “has no equal” in the political arena.
But Hartley also could end up working for a different candidate, former Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr., now the U.S. ambassador to Russia, should Huntsman decide to run for what would be a third term as Utah’s governor.
A source told the Deseret News in April that Huntsman, elected governor in 2004 and again in 2008, has not ruled out getting in what will be a wide-open race since Gov. Gary Herbert is not running again.
Huntsman, who ran for president in 2012, has not commented on the race, saying only there is “nothing to consider until our current commitment is done.” He will have served two years in Moscow this fall.
Hartley, who worked with both the Huntsman and Herbert administrations, has been the House chief of staff since Hughes became speaker in 2015. Hughes did not run for re-election to the Legislature last year.
Wilson announced that Abby Osborne, the Salt Lake Chamber’s vice president of government relations and public policy, will start work as House chief of staff on July 1.
The speaker said Hartley’s “service to the House of Representatives has been extraordinary” and praised him for working on complicated issues while developing a team to handle constituent affairs, policy, communications and lawmaker support.
Hartley said he’ll stay on the job after Osborne comes on board through an unspecified transition period.
“I’ve also got some business and consulting opportunities that I will be pursuing,” Hartley said, adding he is “committed to ensuring I work closely with Abby through a transition to make sure things run smoothly.”
Osborne will supervise the 13 full-time employees in the Utah House as well as advise Wilson and the GOP majority leadership team. An additional 42 employees plus interns work in the House during the annual legislative session.
“The Legislature is a remarkable institution and I have the deepest respect for those who give their time to serve and better our state,” said Osborne, who heads the chamber’s legislative efforts in her current post.
The governor’s race is already heating up, with Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox announcing his run last week. A number of Republicans in addition to Hughes and Huntsman are considering a run for the seat last won by a Democrat in 1980.
Possible candidates include Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah; former congressman turned Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz; former Utah Jazz CEO Greg Miller and Attorney General Sean Reyes.