SALT LAKE CITY -- Overstock Chairman Jonathan Johnson acknowledges he's been gearing up for a run against Governor Gary Herbert for the Republican nomination.
"It's the worst-kept secret in the state," he joked in a recent interview with FOX 13.
Johnson has been traveling around the state, meeting with groups and building support as he seeks the Republican nomination for governor.
"Going to Blanding, going up to Logan and all ends of the state has really been a fulfilling thing," he said. "What propels me to do this is I think it's good to have change in leadership."
Johnson has been critical of Herbert for his handling of education, air quality issues and relying too much on federal dollars in state budgeting. But he faces a sitting governor with a 70-percent approval rating (according to a recent UtahPolicy.com poll) and very little controversy.
"I think Gov. Herbert has a nice approval rating, but as I talk to people around the state, I think it's perhaps broad but shallow," Johnson told FOX 13. "So to me, this is not a hobby or an exercise to gain experience. If I do it, it's because I'll be in it to win it."
Johnson, a BYU graduate and attorney, has already started building a campaign team. He said he would court Republican delegates, but wouldn't rule out signature gathering under the new "Count My Vote compromise" law to try to force Herbert into a primary.
In brief remarks to FOX 13 on Monday, Gov. Herbert said he anticipated the inter-party challenger.
"That's part of the process," he said. "Anybody can run for office. That's certainly how I did it."
Still, Herbert said he planned to seek re-election by reminding voters about his successes.
"I feel like I've got a great track record and I'm certainly prepared to run on what we've been able to accomplish over these last few years. Because of that, I'd like to invite the people to give me a second, full four-year term," Herbert said.
In the interview with FOX 13, Johnson stopped short of making his run official, promising an announcement "soon."
"There's not really anything holding me back," he said. "I've got a good team working on the campaign. We're just waiting for the right time to make it official."
Asked if it was "unofficially official," he chuckled: "I guess that's one way to put it."