Gov. Norm Bangerter won't seek a third term and will retire from politics on Jan. 1, 1993, when he completes his current term.
Bangerter, 57, surrounded by family and friends, made the announcement Thursday morning in the Governor's Board Room at the State Capitol.Questions about his political future were becoming personally distracting, he said, which is why he chose to make the announcement two years early.
"While the six years I have served as governor have been among the most satisfying in my life, and even though I have much left to accomplish during the two years remaining in my term, I announce today my decision not to seek re-election," the governor said.
By stepping down after his two terms, Bangerter is keeping a promise he made to himself and his family when he first ran. Even though many people are encouraging him to run again, Bangerter believes it is time to go.
He is in good health and plans to return to his private construction business. He said he has no plans to seek any other political office, specifically saying he won't run for the U.S. Senate.
Bangerter had many successes and challenges in his six years as the state's highest elected official. He came to the Legislature in 1974, one of only two Republicans to win in the anti-GOP year of Watergate. He rose through the Republican leadership ranks in the Utah House of Representatives to become a two-term speaker.
Bangerter announced his plans to run for governor in 1984 before the popular Democratic Gov. Scott M. Matheson announced he would not seek a third term.
Bangerter pushed aside a number of formidable GOP opponents and defeated Dan Marriott in the Republican primary. He beat Democrat Wayne Owens in the final election and took office in 1985, just as a storm of problems struck Utah's economy.
He had to deal with the closing of major employers, Kennecott and Geneva Steel. As recession crept across the state's economic landscape, Bangerter also faced another onslaught - the rising waters of the Great Salt Lake.
Matheson and his engineers had earlier suggested pumping lake waters into the west desert. But it was Bangerter who pushed the $55 million pumping project through the Republican Legislature.
As the recession worsened in 1986, Bangerter faced severe revenue shortfalls, a rising school-age population and other demands for government programs. In December 1986, he proposed the largest tax increase in the state's history - $230 million - saying that it would just be enough to keep pace with the growth in education and social service programs.A citizen uproar followed. While the Legislature finally granted a $165 million tax increase, the dissatisfaction among many Utahns - especially the right wing of Bangerter's own party - didn't subside.
As he began staging his re-election campaign in 1988, Bangerter was an underdog. Even though he was 35 points down in the polls to Democrat Ted Wilson - and was challenged by independent candidate Merrill Cook, leader of the tax protesters - Bangerter, who is known for his tenacity, came on to win. He received 40 percent of the vote to Wilson's 38 percent and Cook's 22 percent.
Bangerter's popularity has risen in the polls since, and his recent challenges of the American Civil Liberties Union and his support of prayer in the schools is popular.
Bangerter said he won't be a lame-duck governor.
"I may be a bit lame," he joked, referring to his recurring knee problems. "But I'm no duck."
Recalling how much he trailed Wilson in the early polls, Bangerter said he couldn't be any more of a lame duck before the 1988 Legislature. "Yet we still got many major programs through that Legislature and solved a very difficult thrift problem."
Speaking of the support his family has given him, he said: "I pay special tribute to my wife, Colleen. She has been and will continue to be my best and most trusted adviser. In our 37 years of marriage, she has been a constant source of support and inspiration. Without Colleen's help, I could not have served..
"As you are all aware, we did not pick the easiest years to preside over the state. We have had some difficult times. We have not concentrated on image or on protecting our popularity in the polls. We have taken the problems as they came, head-on, and we proposed the best solutions we knew - regardless of political consequences. This will not change. I want to go down in history as the governor who didn't spend eight years worrying about how he would go down in history.
"Many of my positions and programs have been perceived in the beginning as lacking the support of the people. But every attempt to reverse those decisions has been turned back by the people," he said, referring to various voter initiative actions. "And I will always be grateful for their support in difficult times."
Bangerter said one of the high points of his office was winning re-election in 1988. "And getting all those telephone calls from those people who forgot to send those (campaign) checks," he said with a smile.
One of the darkest moments was the Singer standoff several years ago. A state corrections officer was killed when the polygamist family was arrested and much pressure brought on the governor.
Bangerter said he won't get involved in the Republican battle to succeed him. "I suppose if someone got in the race that I didn't think would be good for the job, I might say something. But I don't see that happening."
Including his time in the Legislature, Bangerter said he'll have been in politics 18 years when he leaves the governorship.
"I don't frankly know what the future holds. But as many of you know, I'm as independent a guy as you can meet. I've always taken care of myself."
The men who would be governor
With Norm Bangerter's decision not to seek a third term, Utah's political pundits are already discussing who will emerge as top candidates to be Utah's next governor. Here's some of the contenders:
- Palmer DePaulis, Democrat, mayor of Salt Lake City
- Val Oveson, Republican, Bangerter's lieutenant governor
- Scott Matheson Jr., Democrat, University of Utah law professor
- Mike Leavitt, Republican, former campaign strategist and insurance executive
- Dale Carpenter, Democrat, former head of economic development for former Gov. Scott Matheson; former gubernatorial candidate
- Nolan E. Karras, Republican, speaker of the Utah House
- Joe Jenkins, Republican, Provo mayor
- Paul VanDam, Democrat, Utah attorney general
- Rep. Jim Hansen, Republican, 1st District congressman
- Jim Davis, mayor of South Salt Lake
- Steve Studdert, Republican, former presidential adviser
- Richard Eyre, Republican, writer and lecturer
- Merrill Cook, independent, Salt Lake businessman and former gubernatorial candidate
Granger native rose to governor's chair
Here are some of the highlights from Gov. Norm Bangerter's career:
- Born and reared in Granger, now West Valley City.
- Real estate development and businessman for 25 years. As a teenager, he started working as a carpenter with his father and older brothers out of their Magna home during the late 1940s.
- Started SJB Construction with two real estate friends and began building subdivisions.
- Formed Bangerter and Hendrickson Co. Was president of the firm.
- Served on the Granger-Hunter Community Council.
- A member of the advisory board of the Utah Technical College-Salt Lake, now Salt Lake Community College.
- Elected in 1974 to the Utah House of Representatives. He won the race despite the fact that his district was traditionally Democratic and Republicans were suffering effects from the Watergate scandal.
- Elected in 1977 as assistant majority whip, serving through 1978.
- Served 1979-1980 as House majority leader.
- Elected House speaker in 1981, serving through 1984. First speaker to serve two consecutive terms in over 40 years.
- Elected in 1984 as governor over Democrat Wayne Owens.
- Recommended the largest tax increase in the state's history in 1987. Over the next two years some taxes were lowered.
- In 1990 Utah legislative session he recommended the highest budget increase for education in the history of the state.
- Although trailing badly in the polls throughout the election, he won re-election in 1988, defeating Democrat Ted Wilson and Independent candidate Merrill Cook.
- Past vice chairman and chairman of Western Governors Association.