SANDY -- Overstock.com executive Jonathan Johnson made his campaign for Utah governor official on Saturday, declaring his run before delegates at the Utah Republican Party's state convention.
"I am ready to lead the state of Utah. I'm making it official. I want to be Utah's next governor!" Johnson told the delegates to some applause.
Johnson will be challenging the popular incumbent Governor Gary Herbert, who focused on the successes under his administration in a speech to GOP delegates. Both men paid $25,000 to speak to the crowd on Saturday.
In a recent interview with FOX 13, Johnson had signaled his intent to run for governor calling it "the worst kept secret in the state." He has been traveling the state meeting with groups to build support for a run.
"I think Utah's ready for a change. They're looking for someone who has a proven track record of leading and I think I can be that person," he told reporters on Saturday.
Johnson had a booth and ads in the GOP program asking for delegates to "hire" him. During his speech, he challenged Governor Herbert to a series of debates and urged delegates to text a number to support those debates.
In his remarks to the delegates, Governor Herbert touted the successes of his administration, but would not announce any re-election bid. Speaking to reporters at the GOP convention, Herbert said he would wait for another time.
"This is the year to govern," he said. "Campaigning? That's a 2016 issue. I think there are others who will want to think about running for office and the more the merrier."
Herbert's campaign also took out an advertisement in the party program.
Herbert got one high-profile endorsement out of Saturday's GOP convention: Senator Orrin Hatch. Appearing at the convention to accept an award from the party, Hatch told reporters he respected Johnson but said Herbert had led the state to top honors and recognition.
The senator, who has served for decades, was quiet about whether he would seek re-election.
"I'm not even thinking about that," Hatch said. "I've got 3 1/2 years to go and I'll be giving it everything I have."
In her remarks to the crowd, Rep. Mia Love indicated she would be seeking another term, referencing her Democratic challenger -- Doug Owens.
"You may have heard that the Democrats are going to take another run at us," she said. "With the same tired person and the same tired attacks and the same tired lies of 2014. Bring it."
The nearly 2,000 registered Republican delegates were slated to vote on whether GOP candidates would even be on the 2016 ballot. Under Senate Bill 54, which provides an alternative path for candidates to get on the ballot outside the caucus/convention system who gather enough signatures, has been challenged by the Republican party in court.
A federal judge refused to block the law from going into effect, forcing the GOP to choose a path. Speaking to the delegates, Evans insisted the party was not dropping its lawsuit. The Constitution Party has sought to settle the lawsuit and a judge has suggested mediation.
Ultimately, the delegates voted overwhelmingly to comply with the new law.
"We always try to balance, allowing those who disagree to have their voice," Utah GOP Chairman James Evans said. "Maybe we were too indulgent, but I think you saw at one point the delegates said, 'We've had enough. We're ready to vote.'"