SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – In the midst of Utah’s 2024 legislative session, Phil Lyman, a candidate for governor and incumbent member of the Utah House of Representatives, is ramping up his campaign activities for the upcoming elections.
Striving to gain traction in a competitive Republican field, Lyman aims to build momentum before the upcoming August primary election. In this electoral challenge, he will go head-to-head with incumbent Governor Spencer Cox and other contenders such as Carson Jorgensen, Scott Robins and Sylvia Fisk.
Lyman recently spoke with TownLift to discuss his 2024 campaign and priorities for Utah if elected Governor.
Lyman, who has been serving as the representative for the 69th District in the state House of Representatives since 2019, began his political career in 2010 in San Juan County, where he held the position of County Commissioner for eight years.
If elected as Governor, Lyman hopes to limit the federal government’s impacts on Utah and follow the Constitution as closely as possible.
“Government tends to encroach on people’s liberties and tend to yield. And that’s government at all levels. We are really sensitive to the Constitution,” Lyman said.
Lyman also criticizes Utah’s current state government, alleging that the Cox administration surveils and monitors Utahns.
“I’m not a fan of state government, surveilling people, monitoring people, measuring every aspect of their lives,” Lyman said. “One thing that we’re watching right now is water.”
“We’ve turned a local pool resource like water into a state resource that can be managed at the state level by people who have no idea what they’re even talking about in regard to some of these roles,” Lyman said, referencing the meters that have been implemented to monitor water levels.
Measures such as these have been implemented in an effort to help preserve and save the Great Salt Lake, which Lyman also believes has been mismanaged recently.
“There’s been a lot of efforts to the Great Salt Lake, and we don’t all live upstream from the Great Salt Lake in Utah, but we’re all being metered. We allocated $40 million to save the Great Salt Lake in 2022, and that money was turned right around and given to the Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society,” Lyman said.
“What I said in committee is, where I come from, those people are not our friends. They steal our counties, shut down our roads and shut down our businesses. And why the state would give money to environmentalist groups to go out and buy water is beyond me.”
Instead of having the State manage issues such as the preservation of the Great Salt Lake, Lyman hopes to see individual counties decide how to tackle problems such as these.
“When you’re talking about centralized management of a resource, the big question is, do you trust the people who now control all of it? And I don’t; I’ve seen the influence that these environmental groups have on those policies. I’ve seen the influence that developers have had on policy,” Lyman said.
“I don’t trust the state to do a better job of managing that resource at a state level than I would the local people at a local level, and that’s what counties were created for.”
While Lyman was serving as the San Juan County Commissioner, he was infamously arrested for trespassing following a protest against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Lyman mentioned that his 2015 arrest was one of the reasons he decided to run for the Utah House of Representatives.
“What compelled me to run for state legislature and for the governor’s office is watching the government unjustly hurt people and take away their stuff, and fighting that fight at the county level got me charged with a federal misdemeanor trespass charge.”
According to Lyman, the 2015 trespassing charge came after a peaceful protest against the BLM organized by Lyman and others in Blanding.
“The biggest thing that I was protesting at the time was the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and the stranglehold that they had on our local bureau of land management offices. They were essentially calling all of the shots, and the BLM would just go along with it,” Lyman said.
When Lyman began his stint as the San Juan County Commissioner, he worked with the BLM during the fallout of the FBI’s 2009 raid in Blanding, which saw 17 people arrested. Lyman’s tenure as County Commissioner also overlapped with the 2013 federal government shutdown, both of which were reasons for the 2014 protest.
“The government shutdown basically shut down the whole economy of San Juan County, and I pushed back and told the people there, hey, if we’re not okay with the federal government controlling every aspect of our life in San Juan County, we need to stand up and do something.”
“So we had a protest in May 2014. It was a peaceful protest; no laws were broken, and no laws were conspired to be broken. In fact, the BLM commended me for keeping the peace and having a good event.”
Lyman said he learned he was facing federal crimes when he received a call from the Salt Lake Tribune five months later.
“Then, five months later, I got a call from the Salt Lake Tribune asking me how I felt about being charged criminally in federal court. And since then, I found that that’s the way the U.S. Attorney’s Office works — they send out the media in advance, and they orchestrate it try to get a person guilty in the court of public opinion before they even know that they’ve been charged,” Lyman said.
“I ended up going to jail for that, which gave me a whole new perspective on the weaponization of the Department of Justice, weaponization of the IRS and weaponization of the Bureau of Land Management. That’s the fight that kind of drew me in to start with.”
In terms of how the 2015 arrest has affected his 2024 gubernatorial campaign, Lyman said he had seen adverse effects on people.
“I think it’s been a bit of a sifter. People who love the lefties, or the RINOs, people who defer to the federal government and think that they shouldn’t have more say in our lives tend to think I was out of line. ”
“People who feel the opposite see me standing up for what I believe in, and it definitely demonstrates that I put my money where my mouth is,” Lyman said.
Another initiative Lyman would prioritize if elected is to reinstate a secretary of state position within Utah.
“I would push very hard to reinstate the office of Secretary of State in Utah. Have someone who oversees the elections who is not also basically the Governor. The governor essentially oversees his own elections.”
Lyman also hopes to consolidate some state governmental offices if elected.
“I would definitely get rid of a number of executive offices in our department, consolidate some or get rid of some altogether. I’d honestly like to be more of a one-stop shop for if you want to apply for WIC or get your driver’s license or whatever.”