Dabakis said his office will soon open a 4th District recruiting file, "which we didn't think we'd need, but we do." He mentioned Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, retiring state Sen. Pat Jones, D-Salt Lake City, and former U.S. Senate candidate Scott Howell as possibilities.
Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah Hinckley Institute of Politics, said Matheson's departure all but assures the seat will fall into Republican hands. He said it would be nearly impossible for another Democrat to recreate Matheson's campaign magic with one possible exception — McAdams.
McAdams, a personable, conservative Democrat who has shown the ability to raise money, would dramatically change the GOP odds, Jowers said.
Utah will miss what Matheson brings to the state and to Congress, Dabakis said.
"Jim is the latest in a long line of Mathesons who have devoted themselves to being the kind of steward that Utahns can trust," he said. "His pragmatic, roll-up-your-sleeves leadership is something rare to find in modern politics and Utah's Republican Party."
Matheson lists stopping radioactive waste from coming to Utah, a Washington County public lands bill and cleaning up uranium mill tailings in Moab among his accomplishments. He also said getting to know Utahns from all walks of life made him a better congressman.
President Barack Obama issued a statement Tuesday, praising Matheson for his public service.
"Jim Matheson has proudly represented the people of Utah for more than 12 years in the United States Congress," Obama said. "He has been a forceful advocate of our nation’s veterans and worked to strengthen our economy through his support of key trade agreements. Michelle and I thank Congressman Matheson for his service and wish him, his wife, Amy, and their two sons the very best in the future."
Steve Israel, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, said Matheson always puts his constituents first.
"Jim’s priorities have always been to focus on working together to solve our problems, responsibly put our fiscal house in order and make our country strong for the next generation," he said in a statement.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was quick to praise Matheson for his time in the House.
“During my 37 years in the United States Congress, I’d be hard pressed to name someone who I’ve enjoyed serving alongside of more than Jim Matheson," Hatch said in a statement. "While we didn’t agree on everything, you always knew that Jim was doing what he sincerely felt was best for our state. From public land rights to standing up for Hill Air Force Base to fighting against Obamacare, I’ve been proud to stand with Jim on behalf of Utahns and the values we hold dear."
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