The race to represent Utah's new 4th Congressional District has acquired its first Democratic challenger. Unfortunately for the four Republicans currently in the race, it is the strongest possible Democratic challenger in Utah. Congressman Jim Matheson, who's represented the Second District for 11 years, will be campaigning for the Fourth District seat, although he does not live within its boundaries. Members of the U.S. House only have to live within the boundaries of their state, not necessarily within the boundaries of their House district. Not only does this now become Utah's hottest political race, but it will also attract national attention. The Hill has already picked up the story nationally, and they erroneously state there are only three Republicans in the race.
Matheson's full statement was published by the Salt Lake Tribune. He had been leaning toward the 4th District for some time but only made his final decision last week. Ultimately, he said he opted not to run for governor because he thought a Congress in gridlock needed more independent members. Despite his Democratic label, Matheson is part of the Blue Dog Caucus, and has not been a sockpuppet for Nancy Pelosi. Matheson also said he believes he enters the race as a real favorite and that he doesn’t see the need to move into the new district; demographically, 25 percent of his current 2nd District constituents live in the new 4th District while geographically, 85 percent of the new district is concentrated in Salt Lake County. KSL news video embedded below:
According to political analyses by both the Democratic and Republican Parties, the 4th District is the most promising for Matheson. While Republicans estimate the district is 59 percent Republican, Democrats estimate it's 62 percent Republican.
Matheson says that from the beginning, he has sought to be an independent voice who puts Utah first. Because our world faces complicated issues, he believes this is not the time for more partisanship or an all-or-nothing, narrow perspective that prevents progress. Throughout his career in public service, he has gained valuable insight and inspiration from his interactions with Utahns in every corner of the state.
Reaction: All four of his four Republican opponents sounded off:
-- Carl Wimmer (R-Herriman): On Twitter, Wimmer wrote "Is 'bail-out' Jim Matheson actually willing to carpetbag in order to maintain power? I look forward to this race." Wimmer also challenged Matheson to move to the 4th District and stop voting like a liberal. He added that America can't afford more Obamacare, failed stimulus programs, deficit spending and the likes of Nancy Pelosi as speaker. Wimmer, who represents District 52 in the state house, is considered the most conservative of the Republicans; on the 2011 Salt Lake Tribune Combined Scorecard, he graded out at 90.6, the highest and most conservative grade of any member of the legislature. Wimmer also graded out an "A+" on immigration by UFIRE, a perfect 100 percent rating from the Utah Taxpayers Association, and a 90.2 Utah Ideology score (the highest or most conservative rating).
-- Stephen Sandstrom (R-Orem): Sandstrom called Matheson's entry a game changer, saying "What it means is this race is going to get a whole lot of national attention." He also noted that he has a strategy mapped out to beat Matheson and that he is the candidate in the field who can do it. He added that the race will be a referendum on Obama’s policies, and that Jim Matheson is part of that. Sandstrom, who represents District 58 in the state house, is not quite as conservative as Wimmer; he only graded out at 58.2 on the Tribune's scorecard. Sandstrom also graded out an "A+" on immigration by UFIRE, a surprisingly low 64 percent by the Utah Taxpayers Association, and a 38.2 Utah Ideology score, which puts him in the upper third of most conservative ratings.
-- Mia Love (Mayor of Saratoga Springs): Love welcomes Matheson to the race, saying "I look forward to challenging Congressman Matheson on the issues and teaching him what’s important to the voters in the 4th District — lower taxes, less spending and smaller government. People are angry with the Washington culture and they are hungry for results — not more of the same. I am a solution to the problems that have grown out of control under Congressman Matheson's leadership." The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Love was taught to place American nationality ahead of individual racial heritage, which makes her the antithesis of people like Jesse Jackson and Jeanetta Williams. You can watch her "I am a Mormon" video HERE.
-- Jay Cobb: Cobb said Matheson's entry into the race forces prospective delegates to ask themselves an extremely important question -- which of the Republican candidates can win? Cobb further explained "I think that helps me and if people get to know me they’ll see how strong a candidate I am. Every time there are more candidates and more choices for people, it’s good for the system." Cobb is the only candidate in this race with no prior service in elective office, although he did run unsuccessfully in the special election to replace Senator Chris Buttars in 2010.
It's probably too early to answer Cobb's question. Do voters want someone who is distinctly different than Jim Matheson, or would they prefer someone who's more a Republican version of Matheson? If the former, this would put Carl Wimmer in the driver's seat. Morgan Philpot, who's just as conservative as Wimmer, came within five points of defeating Matheson in 2010, so there's a market for a hard-line conservative.
And surprise, surprise, there was also a reaction from Cherilyn Eagar, who's running for the 2nd District House seat. Eagar said "Jim Matheson is bad for the 2nd District, he's bad for the 4th and he's bad for America. His voting record is very transparent. Once Utahns, regardless of party affiliation, look under the hood, they'll come to learn that Jim Matheson isn't a solution in Washington, he's the problem."