Two Republicans, Morgan Philpot and Neil Walter, are already challenging incumbent 2nd District Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson. In particular, Philpot seems well-positioned not only to earn the Republican nomination, but considering the degree of dissatisfaction with Matheson, could even do the unthinkable and take him down in November. Philpot has already earned the endorsement of the Utah Republican Assembly and all five founding members of the Patrick Henry Caucus.
But apparently Philpot's credentials do not satisfy the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). Paul Rolly of the Salt Lake Tribune tells us that the NRCC is shopping for a different Republican to challenge Matheson. They initially flirted with House Speaker Dave Clark (R-Santa Clara), but apparently Clark wised up to their tactics and declined. Now the NRCC is romancing District 51 Rep. Greg Hughes (R-Draper), and they've pulled out all the stops. Hughes has been to Washington, D.C., in recent weeks to meet with members of the NRCC and has had telephone conversations about a possible candidacy with the NRCC chair, U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas). Although Hughes has already filed with the Salt Lake County Clerk to run for re-election in District 51, he could still change his mind and run for Matheson's seat because the filing deadline is not until Friday March 19th, a mere four days before the
Hughes has not yet commented on this new development. He has not shied from controversy and has passionately pushed for conservative causes in the Legislature. His aggressive nature has gotten him in trouble at times and he battled an ethics complaint against him in 2008. The House Ethics Committee cleared him of all charges, but wrote him an official letter suggesting he tone down his style.
Greg Hughes better think real hard before saying Yes. It could backfire on him big time. Not only would he be perceived as the tool of Outsiders, but he would piss off a whole bunch of people who have become committed to Philpot. In addition, he would risk crossing swords with the five lawmakers who are the founding members of the Patrick Henry Caucus, including Reps. Carl Wimmer, Chris Herrod, Ken Sumsion, Keith Grover, and Stephen Sandstrom. Hughes would risk becoming a hiss and a byword like Merrill Cook.
If Greg Hughes was serious about running for Congress, he should have jumped in earlier. I'm tired of these vultures who waltz into a campaign at the last minute and steal the fruits of the labors of those who've worked 6-9 months to build up a presence on the campaign trail. Utah Republicans don't need the help of a far-off Washington think tank to choose their standard-bearer against Jim Matheson. One has to wonder if the NRCC is deliberately sabotaging Philpot's efforts.