Tom Smart, Deseret News archives
Editor's note: A photo of Rep. Jim Matheson that originally appeared with this story was taken at a Feb. 3, 2011, event and was not from any announcement of Mathesons decision to run in the 4th District.
SALT LAKE CITY — With several high-profile Republicans and now an incumbent Democrat, the race in Utah's new 4th Congressional District promises to be a barnburner.
Rep. Jim Matheson announced Thursday that he will jump from the 2nd District where he has served the past 10 years to the state's new district to seek re-election — a district in which he does not live. And GOP challengers are already eagerly taking shots at Utah's only Democrat in Congress.
"The primary and the general (election) will be must-see politics," said Kirk Jowers, executive director of the University of Utah Hinckley Institute of Politics.
Matheson said the Utah Legislature's redrawing of congressional boundaries this fall prompted his move because the district he has known no longer exists.
"I'm not leaving. The district went away from me," he said.
"Most of us watched with disgust the political games played during the redistricting process," he said. "But lines on a map never defined my approach to this job. From the beginning, it has been my priority to be an independent voice who puts Utah first."
Matheson flirted with running for U.S. Senate and governor before opting for another congressional campaign.
"I think I actually walk into this race as the favorite," he said.
Jowers said Matheson is the only Democrat in Utah that Republicans don't want to face and has made it more difficult "by several fold" for a Republican to win the seat. Matheson, he said, has won six terms and the GOP candidates combined have won zero.
"The 4th District is now the most interesting race in Utah and one of the most interesting in America," he said.
The Blue Dog Democrat joins several well-known Republicans vying to be the new district's inaugural representative.
State legislators — Rep. Stephen Sandstrom of Orem and Rep. Carl Wimmer of Herriman — have already kicked off their campaigns as has attorney Jay Cobb. Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love is running but has not made a formal announcement.
Wimmer already ignited the fireworks with a tweet saying, "Is 'bail-out' Jim Matheson actually willing to carpetbag in order to maintain power? I look forward to this race."
In a statement, Wimmer challenged Matheson to "move to the 4th District and stop voting like a liberal. America can't afford more Obamacare, failed stimulus programs, deficit spending and the likes of Nancy Pelosi as speaker."
Sandstrom called Matheson's entry a game changer. "What it means is this race is going to get a whole lot of national attention."
Currently, the 2nd District includes the populous east side of Salt Lake County — a Matheson stronghold — as well as much of rural eastern and southern Utah. The newly redrawn 2nd District is now more heavily Republican as it picked up western Salt Lake County.
The 4th District covers heavily populated southwestern Salt Lake County — an area Matheson represented early in his career — and western Utah County and more rural Sanpete and Juab counties. It is the smallest district geographically, and though largely Republican, it has more Democratic voters than the other districts.
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