Republican Randall Mackey - who almost ran against Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, last year - was in Washington Friday surveying his chances for a run against Owens next year.
And Mackey, a conservative, also met with party officials and others about running for the U.S. Senate if Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, decides to retire next year.Mackey - an attorney, longtime Republican activist and a one-time staffer for former Rep. Sherm Lloyd, R-Utah - said he feels Garn will seek re-election, so his seat will not be open.
"I think Jake will run again, at least he is leaning more that way," Mackey told the Deseret News. "Frankly, I hope he runs again. He has done an outstanding job. But if he doesn't, I think it will be a wide-open race."
Mackey added, "I am seriously considering running against Wayne Owens. Wayne continues to take positions out of step with the views of most Utahns. For example, he not only voted against joining the president in the war, but filed a lawsuit against him."
The lawsuit Owens joined sought to prevent the president from taking offensive military action during Operation Desert Shield without the approval of Congress.
Mackey - a father of eight children ages 3 to 15 - said he will not decide whether to run against Owens until after the Legislature redraws congressional district boundaries later this year.
Mackey said a key to winning either race is financial support. So he met with the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee to test the waters about what support they may offer.
He also met with influential political newsletter writers. If they write that he has a chance of winning, it helps attract donations from political action committees.
While almost every big-name Republican in Utah has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Senate if Garn does not run, Mackey is virtually by himself so far as a possible candidate against Owens - but that could change if the Legislature makes Owens' currently all-Salt Lake County district more rural, where he is more unpopular.
"It's no accident that not many people are talking about running against Wayne. He raised more than $1 million for his race last year, much of it from out of state," Mackey said. "He is a smart politician. He has all the advantages of incumbency.
"Frankly, a lot of people think it may be easier to run for an open seat (like the Senate or for governor) than to take on Wayne Owens."
Mackey said he decided against running against Owens last year when Republicans Dan Marriott and Genevieve Atwood entered the race. "I felt with a contested primary, the nominee wouldn't be selected until September. That would be too late to get money from PACs and to get a general campaign going. That turned out to be correct."
But he said Owens is beatable, even though he is a tough opponent. "The district is still 2-1 Republican. But Republicans don't vote for the Republican just because he is Republican. He has to convince them. I can do that. . . . I am a conservative. Owens has a liberal-Democratic voting record."
He said he would concentrate on local issues and concerns. "Wayne Owens cares more about wolves in Yellowstone than he does about jobs in the 2nd District. He cares more about wilderness in southern Utah than he does about environmental concerns in his own district such as clean air and water."