Schultz, a ‘strong conservative,’ to seek top House post
HOOPER — Utah Rep. Mike Schultz, a Hooper Republican and the House majority leader, has his sights set on the top leadership post in the body.
With current House Speaker Brad Wilson to step down on Nov. 15 as he launches a bid for the U.S. Senate, Schultz — a self-described “strong conservative” — plans to run for the speakership. Broadly speaking, the Weber County lawmaker is driven by a desire to preserve what he says is the quality of life in Utah for generations to come.
“Our kids and our grandkids, honestly, is what motivates me. I love Utah,” he said. Wilson announced his plans to step down on Tuesday, and Schultz — who backs the Kaysville GOPer’s Senate ambitions — let it be known soon after that he’d vie for the top House spot.
Schultz says there are many areas that merit attention, including energy, taxes and water conservation, but he also puts a focus on social issue, notably with regard to the transgender community.
“Make sure it’s just the girls playing girls sports,” he said, alluding to House Bill 11, the 2022 measure — now facing a court challenge — meant to keep transgender girls from playing on female high school sports teams. He favored H.B. 11 and suspects new legislation will be needed once the court challenge of the measure is complete to address potential changes ordered by the judiciary.
He also alluded to Senate Bill 16, approved earlier this year with his backing, which implements a ban on minors getting transgender surgeries. Backers will have to keep close tabs on moves by foes of H.B. 11 and S.B. 16 to counter the measures, he said, adding that, “These are both things that are going to continue to come up as they work their way through the court.”
Finally, he said he would favor moves to keep transgender females and those “claiming to be transgender” out of women’s restrooms and locker rooms. “I don’t know what that looks like yet. But there’s got to be a space where we can protect these women and girls,” he said.
The 75 House members, both Republican and Democrat, vote on House speaker and Schultz says the vote will be on Nov. 15, Wilson’s last day in the House. Wilson is expected to announce his bid for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Mitt Romney, who’s not running again, on Sept. 27.
Shultz will meet with Democratic House leaders as he seeks out support, he said, but he’s focusing on garnering the backing of the 61 House GOPers. “I feel like I’ve got good support,” said Schultz. Formerly a homebuilder, he now puts his occupational focus on the family cattle ranch.
Rep. Melissa Ballard, a Davis County Republican, also plans to seek the House speaker’s post, Schultz said. She didn’t respond to a Standard-Examiner query seeking comment.
‘SPEAKER FOR THE WHOLE STATE’
Schultz, first elected to the House in 2014 and now in his fifth term, was elevated to House majority leader — the second-ranking post in the body — in late 2021. Before that, he served as majority whip, the third-ranking leadership post. He has won by wide margins the three times he’s faced a challenger for the District 12 seat, garnering at least 69% of the vote. He’s been unopposed in two races.
District 12 covers Hooper and parts of Roy and West Haven along with a section of northern Davis County.
While ardent on issues related to the transgender community, a divisive issue in Utah and across the country, Schultz maintains that he’d take his cues on which issues should get the most focus from fellow lawmakers. What’s more, he takes a long view, chiefly concerned with the issues that bear on the state’s long-term well-being.
“You’re speaker for the whole state and that’s how I’d lead,” he said. Though he initially ran for the Utah House in 2014 aiming to advocate for Weber County and Northern Utah, he says he’d take a more global approach as speaker.
As for other big issues, he points to some of Wilson’s priorities.
Wilson put a focus on the long-term needs of the state and managing growth, Schultz said, and he’d continue that. Like Wilson, Schultz also said he’s “super passionate” about preserving the Great Salt Lake, making sure it doesn’t dry up, and similarly intent on broader water-conservation efforts.
“I believe we must continue conserving water while investing in infrastructure and technologies that can increase the water supply available to meet our future state’s needs,” Schultz said.
Energy is another big issue for Schultz. He worries about federal guidelines being pushed on Utah, notably the Environmental Protection Agency’s ozone transport rule, which would prompt moves to cut ozone emissions.
If the state doesn’t push back against such measures, Utah will be like California and Texas, he said, with rolling blackouts during peak energy use times. More generally, he says coal needs to be part of the energy mix in Utah, along with solar and other sources.
“Utah has abundant energy resources and generation capacity that can fuel our lives and economy with reliable, affordable and dispatchable power for generations,” he said. “To ensure our state is able to thrive into the future, Utah energy policy needs to be driven by Utah interests.”
On taxes, he said Utah lawmakers have returned more than $1 billion to Utahns in the past three years. “I want to continue to look for ways to make life more affordable for Utahns and more inviting for businesses,” he said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct Schultz’s current occupation and to include additional comments.