Provo mayor mum about future, Page B1.1991 is an off-election year. No state or federal candidates. Right?

True, but two dozen Utahns are thinking hard about elections. Staying up nights, running delegate numbers through their heads, worrying about 1992.They are the men and women who are considering running for governor or U.S. senator next year. And for them, decision time is now.

Some have already made up their minds - their job made easier by GOP Gov. Norm Bangerter's announcement several months ago that he wouldn't run again in 1992. Others must wait for Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, to make his announcement - will he run for a fourth term or retire?

Garn has told some people he'll announce his decision this spring. Others say he's told them it will be August. Even some of the senator's closest friends say they don't know which way he'll jump.

Democrat Kyle Kopitke, who lost the 1990 Salt Lake County assessor's race, says he's running for the Senate regardless of what Garn does. Democrat and former Harvard professor Douglas Anderson, who couldn't be reached for comment, also is running regardless of Garn's decision, state Democratic officials say.

Democrat Scott Matheson Jr., eldest son of the late governor, says he is considering the Senate race but hasn't decided and won't decide for a while longer.

Considering that Utah is a very Republican state, and that Garn and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, coasted to re-election wins in the 1980s, it's safe to assume that a good GOP senator replacing Garn could serve 12, 18, even 24 years.

Hatch loves being a senator and has no plans to retire. Thus, if Garn retires, 1992 may be the only chance for a Republican or Democrat to run for an open Senate seat for 12 or 18 years.

"This is the most difficult decision of my life," says longtime GOP activist Michael Leavitt, who is an insurance executive. "It is a very personal decision. How can I best contribute? Is this (the U.S. Senate) where I want to wear out my life?"

Leavitt, like Geneva Steel president Joe Cannon and other Republicans considering the race, won't get in if Garn runs again.

"When you run for such an office," says Leavitt, who has managed several races for other federal candidates, "you have to approach it as if you'll win. What then does this mean to your life? You change professions, giving up the chance to earn considerable money. You have to move your family to Washington, D.C. You change the way you live. You even change your associates and friends, to a large degree. Politics is very much timing. You get one real opportunity, at the very most, two, in a lifetime. That's why this is such a difficult decision for me. The opportunity may not come again. The decision is now."

Leavitt says his was a personal decision - does he want to be a U.S. senator and take with it that life. "The political decisions - how to go about winning the nomination and final election - come later, should I run."

But Cannon has looked ahead already - and picks his contest, in part, on his ability to win. Cannon is, by his own admission, "enchantedwith politics." He seriously considered running for governor, especially after Bangerter took himself out of the 1992 race.

But practical politics won out, and Cannon says now there's a "high chance" he'll run for the Senate if Garn doesn't. It's not a Machiavellian decision. Cannon knows Washington well, having worked at the Environmental Protection Agency for several years. "I know the congressional system and know I can be effective," he says.

Still, in evaluating the governor's race, Cannon realized he'd have a very difficult time being one of the two Republicans coming out of the 1992 state convention. Cannon has conducted a poll of 1990 state Republican delegates, many of whom will likely be delegates again in 1992.

Cannon names the top three GOP contenders, saying, "If you have Val Oveson, Jim Hansen and Nolan Karras in (the gubernatorial race), Joe Cannon is not going to come out of the convention (and into a two-man GOP primary election). What's the point in running if you can't win?"

Lt. Gov. Val Oveson will run for governor, although he hasn't announced, sources say. Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, told the Deseret News editorial board this week he's "seriously considering the governor's race." Hansen is putting together a statewide organization, drafting positions on state issues and developing a campaign strategy.

Former House Speaker Nolan Karras says he's made a decision - although not announced it yet. Those close to Karras say he's running.

Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis, a Democrat, announced last week he won't seek re-election this year. While he hasn't said he'll run for governor, sources close to the mayor say he'll probably enter the race.

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(Additional information)

Potential candidates

U.S. Senate

Republicans

Geneva Steel president Joe Cannon

Insurance executive Michael Leavitt

Attorney Randall Mackey

Utah House Speaker Craig Moody

Democrats

Law professor Scott Matheson Jr.

County assessor candidate Kyle Kopitke

Former professor Douglas Anderson

3rd District Judge Scott Daniels

Governor

Republicans

Lt. Gov. Val Oveson

U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen

Former House Speaker Nolan Karras

Ex-Public Safety Director John T. Nielson

Former presidential aide Steve Studdert

Lecturer and writer Richard Eyre

Former U.S. Attorney Brent Ward

Democrats

Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis

Businessman Kem Gardner

Attorney Stewart Hansen Jr.

Businessman Tony Rampton

State Sen. Scott Howell