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Deseret Morning News archives
Merrill Cook

WASHINGTON — Merrill Cook has already served two terms in the U.S. House of Representative but he announced Sunday that he wants to go back.

Cook, a Republican, will seek to challenge four-term Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, for the 2nd Congressional District, saying it will be the race that should have happened in 2000.

Cook represented the 2nd District from 1997 to 2001, when his congressional career stopped after the 2000 primary. He lost to Derek Smith, whom Matheson beat in the general election.

"I feel I should have been there all along," Cook said. "To me and my supporters this is the election that should have been. We think now it is time for that race."

Cook's announcement comes after Josh Romney, son of former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said he would not challenge Matheson.

Cook said he wanted to see what Josh Romney decided to do before announcing his candidacy.

Just as he insisted when Josh Romney was mulling a run against him, Matheson said he has always planned to run an aggressive campaign.

"It's really not who I am running against," Matheson said. "I run for Congress."

Matheson said he runs every two years on his record and has no plans to change that with this campaign.

This race marks Cook's 12th run for a Utah office including everything from school board and county commission to mayoral race and governor. He ran for governor twice as an independent as well as for the 2nd Congressional District as an independent. He said he can bring independent votes to his side in this race.

Cook said people will likely look at his defeats and jump to the conclusion he cannot win this race, but he emphasized that he has been in tough races and while he may not have won, he did better than anyone initially thought.

Matheson's opposition to President Bush's troop "surge" strategy in Iraq as well as voting against a patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax are just two of the items that pushed Cook to consider running again, he said.

He also wants to focus on immigration, health care and the national economy, he said.

Cook owns Cook Slurry Co., a mining explosives manufacturer.

Contributing: Bob Bernick Jr.

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