Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.
So much for a honeymoon period for the newly-elected chairman of the Utah Republican Party.
Just hours after Sanpete County’s Carson Jorgensen pulled off a surprising win at the Utah State Convention, a copy of an alarming text message from him began making the rounds among Republicans.
“You know you’d have to get along with (Gov.) Spencer (Cox) though, right?” begins a snippet of the message thread shared with The Tribune.
“Unfortunately yes…hahahaha,” Jorgensen wrote.
“I too want to make absolutely sure of one thing,” continued Jorgensen to the unknown recipient. “The Governor, the Legislature and the Cabinet are beholden to the party, not the party to the government.”
It appears Jorgensen was spoiling for a fight with state leaders, but he says that wasn’t the case.
“That text was part of a months-old conversation between me and another member of the party when I was considering getting the race for party chairman,” said Jorgensen on Tuesday, addressing the controversy head-on.
“I stand by what I said then. I represent the hundreds of thousands of Republicans statewide who elected these leaders. There needs to be some sort of accountability,” he explained.
Jorgensen said the exchange was part of a chain of messages that stretched over several hours. That missing context gives the impression Jorgensen was spoiling for a fight with those establishment Republicans who had endorsed his opponent in the leadership race.
“If someone had just come off a win and said that, I’d be concerned too,” he said.
Jorgensen and his new leadership team defeated a slate of candidates that were endorsed by Cox and other top Republicans in the state. He says despite those endorsements, he won’t hold any grudges.
“Some people make a bet and go all in on things and they lose. That’s why I didn’t seek any endorsements during my campaign. I wanted to come into office with a clean slate,” Jorgensen said.
The new chairman says he spent Sunday and Monday reaching out to Cox and others to assure them he wasn’t looking to begin his tenure from an adversarial stance, noting those conversations have been productive.
House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, says he spoke by phone with Jorgensen on Tuesday.
“I’m impressed by his willingness to work with everyone,” he said.
A spokesperson for Gov. Cox says he and Jorgensen have communicated by text and are trying to find time to meet.
Jorgensen supported former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman in the 2020 Republican primary race. Huntsman was narrowly defeated by Cox.
At 31, Jorgensen is the youngest chairman of the Utah GOP in history. The previous youth record was Thomas Wright who was 38 when he was first elected in 2011. In fact, Jorgensen may be one of the youngest GOP state leaders in history. In 2013, South Carolina Republicans elected a 31-year old chairman, the same age Jorgensen is now.