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Redistricting squabble has GOP congressional hopefuls wondering where to line up

Published: Friday, Oct. 14 2011 11:08 p.m. MDT

Cherilyn Eagar, is a candidate in the 2nd Congressional District.

August Miller, Deseret News Archives

SALT LAKE CITY — Several Republicans looking to get into the 2012 congressional race don't know where to line up yet.

A standoff in the Utah Legislature over how to set new boundaries for the state's four districts has left some potential candidates in wait-and-see mode. They aren't ready to commit to a district in which they might not end up living — though that has worked for GOP 3rd District Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

"I think the maps are the deciding factor for everybody," said Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, who has flirted with the idea of running for Congress.

The Redistricting Committee met Oct. 7 — three days after the Legislature's special session ground to a halt due to disagreement between majority House and Senate Republicans — but were only flooded with more maps. State lawmakers intend to resume the special session next Monday.

Meantime, some mostly unknown GOP candidates are poised to run against Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson in the 2nd District, regardless of how the map shakes out. Matheson is closely watching the outcome and hasn't ruled out a run for governor or switching districts.

Last week, GOP House members conceded they discussed partisan voting numbers in proposed districts during their closed caucus meetings.

Herrod made two things clear about any bid for Congress: "I'm not going to run outside my district and I'm not going to run against Jason Chaffetz."

For Herrod, that means seeking re-election in the Utah House or possibly challenging Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Herrod dispelled the notion of taking on state Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, with whom he tangled over illegal immigration bills earlier this year.

"One thing I've learned through this whole process is to keep options open," he said.

Herrod's legislative pal, Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, has already committed to running for Congress. The two now live in the same Utah House district under a new legislative district map lawmakers approved last week. Neither is interested in going against the other.

"The way I'm looking at it right now, I really don't know where I'm going to run" for Congress, Sandstrom said. "I will be a candidate. Whether it's the 2nd or 4th (district), I don't know."

Sandstrom said he won't run outside the district in which he lives or go against Chaffetz, who lives in the 2nd District but represents the 3rd. Sandstrom said he would move into the 2nd or 4th districts if need be. "My wife is on board with that," he added.

Several other potential or announced candidates — Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, former BYU and pro football player Jason Buck, former state lawmaker Morgan Philpot — have not committed to a district. Also, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff hasn't made up his mind yet about running for Congress.

At least three candidates — Holladay conservative political activist Cherilyn Eagar, former Air Force officer Chuck Williams of Heber City and Draper airline pilot John Willoughby — are challenging Matheson. Former House Speaker Rep. Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara, also is a potential 2nd District candidate.

Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, officially launched his campaign for the 4th District seat this past weekend.

Iraq war veteran Michael Miller, a Republican, is running against GOP Rep. Rob Bishop in the 1st District. Miller lives in West Jordan, which is outside the district.

Email: romboy@desnews.com Twitter: dennisromboy

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