Like many of you, I didn’t sleep much last week. As the Jazz game was canceled, as the stock market tumbled, as Rudy Gobert became one of the first diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Utah – things were happening fast. On top of that, I had about 50 friends going door to door passing around pens, paper, clipboards and quite possibly the virus, as they worked on gathering the required 28,000 signatures to secure my spot on the primary ballot.
After sleepless nights, and in the interest of public health and safety, last Friday I directed my campaign to immediately suspend all signature gathering efforts. It was clear to me that this was necessary in order to help slow the spread of the virus throughout Utah.
In a competitive and crucial campaign in our state this was a difficult decision, but I am sure it was the right one. I could not in good conscience send my team and volunteers out door-to-door when we are facing a serious public health crisis.
Now, this isn’t a time for panic, but it is a time for each of us to be proactive. What can we do to slow the spread and “flatten the curve” of infection so as to not completely overwhelm our healthcare system? More importantly, I’ve had to ask myself what can I do?
We have held nearly 500 public political meetings in every corner of this great state over the last year. All with the intent to get my name, Jeff Burningham, on the ballot and bring a fresh perspective to the governor’s office.
However, all that feels secondary now. To continue to campaign as usual is more than a little bit selfish, in my humble opinion. Enough so that I couldn’t sleep.
Something I have said often on the campaign trail is this: “I don’t even view running for governor through a political lens, to me this is all about Leadership, problem solving, and public service.” As I was faced with this decision, I had to ask myself whether or not I really believed what I was saying. Was that a mindset I only intended to employ while governing or was I willing to do it while campaigning as well?
I knew what I needed to do. I made the decision and thankfully my team was fully on board. It hurt to be so close to guaranteeing a spot on the ballot and throw it all away, but I knew it was important that I do my small part in “flattening the curve” of coronavirus in Utah.
This doesn’t mean I am throwing in the towel. I am more committed than ever to bringing new leadership and fresh thinking to the governor’s office. I will seek the nomination through the convention path and will continue to communicate my message to voters over the coming weeks and months.
I will also bring new and innovative ways to hold town hall meetings. Instead of holding them at a local school or library, we will hold them online and on the phone. This will give voters an opportunity to learn more about my platform as well as ask me questions directly. I will host these kinds of meetings almost daily, using a variety of different formats.
The real test of leadership is when things are broken, not when things are going well. I pledge my support and anything I can do to help our state leaders get ahead of this crisis and prevent our healthcare workers from being overwhelmed.
Public safety is the number one priority of government. We should act swiftly and decisively to take the steps necessary to slow the spread of this virus, bolster our healthcare system, and ensure our communities are taken care of.
Last Friday, I called on the governor to take action on these three things:
- Close all K-12 schools for an extended spring break of at least two weeks. Kudos to Governor Herbert for acting on this logical first step. This action will do a lot to slow the spread of the virus.
- Leadership should begin drafting a plan and emergency legislation so that our budget surplus can be used to give Utah families and businesses the relief they are going to need from the economic fallout from this crisis. This can be done in the form of a temporary tax credit or a one-time tax rebate.
- We need a plan to take care of our healthcare workers. The biggest risk we have is overwhelming our hospitals and clinics. Our doctors and nurses are going to be working overtime and we need a plan to bring in reinforcements, if needed. State leaders should immediately recognize cross-border healthcare licenses so health professionals from other states can bolster our network. If they have an active license in another state, Utah’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing should approve a Utah license for them in one day with all fees waived.
This is not ‘business as usual’ for any in business, person, or family in the state right now. Therefore this is not a time for politics as usual either. I will do what I can to do my part, and I’m confident the rest of Utah will do the same.
WATCH THE FOLLOWING VIDEO FROM LAST FRIDAY’S ANNOUNCEMENT RELATED TO COVID-19