Tom Smart, Deseret News
Although Sen. John Valentine waited until Monday to announce he won't challenge Gov. Gary Herbert in 2010, he said he let the governor know more than a week ago.
"It went very good," the Orem Republican said of their conversation during a GOP meeting in Davis County. "He thanked me for the careful consideration of it and said we've got a lot of work to do this next legislative session."
Valentine isn't ruling out a run for governor — or for attorney general — in 2012.
His decision, though, leaves the GOP governor with no competition yet for the two years remaining in former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s term, although Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, a Democrat, told the Deseret News last week he's "seriously looking" at the race.
Herbert "certainly anticipates a challenger in the upcoming election and will address that at the appropriate time," the governor's spokeswoman, Angie Welling, said. She said Herbert "has great respect for Sen. Valentine and looks forward to continuing to work with him in the Utah Senate."
Herbert, who recently raised $1 million in contributions at his first annual "Governor's Gala," had the support of a slim majority of Utahns in a new Deseret News/KSL-TV poll released Monday.
Valentine said he decided now wasn't the time to take on the governor, especially given the state's looming budget shortfall, estimated to be as high as $850 million.
"We're looking at really, really hard decisions," Valentine said, decisions that should not be scrutinized "in the microscope of a political campaign between a senior senator and an appointed governor."
Besides, Valentine said, so far he has not disagreed with the decisions Herbert has made, such as presenting a budget without any tax increases.
"Right now, he is making about the same decisions as I would on a number of issues," Valentine said.
If Herbert is elected next November and that continues, Valentine said he would look to running for attorney general in 2012. Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, also a Republican, dropped out of the U.S. Senate race recently and is not expected to seek re-election.
"I can recognize that would be an important adjunct to the operation of the state," said Valentine, a tax attorney with 33 years of legal experience.
Valentine was already gearing up for the 2012 governor's race when Huntsman announced last spring he was resigning to become U.S. ambassador to China and Herbert, his lieutenant governor, would assume the office.
"I was really, really gratified by how much support I had statewide and almost surprised," Valentine said. "You don't think of yourself as having a statewide persona."
He said his supporters urged him to enter the race, particularly because he does not have to run again for his Senate seat until 2012.
"To me, politics has never been that kind of analysis, where you just take a decision because you have nothing to lose," Valentine said.
Several other Republicans had expressed interest in the governor's race, including Salt Lake Chamber president Lane Beattie and University of Utah Hinckley Institute of Politics director Kirk Jowers. But they decided against running. Both have been named by Herbert to serve on his new Governor's Advisory Team, a sort of formal "kitchen cabinet" that also includes business and community leaders.
Valentine said he has not been asked to join the team and wouldn't accept anyway.
"That would be mixing the executive and legislative branch," he said. "The other former rivals are not in the legislative branch."
Valentine's formal announcement he is not running against Herbert came on KSL Radio Monday morning. He told radio host Doug Wright his decision doesn't mean Herbert has secured the GOP nomination.
"There's always that element of chance and the unknown in politics," Valentine said. "No one knows for certain whether anyone else will come forward."
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