Another leading Republican says he's likely to run for chairman of the Utah Republican Party.
Tim Bridgewater, former 2nd Congressional District GOP candidate, top John McCain campaign aide, and education and political adviser to Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., said Tuesday that he looks forward to a spirited contest against Dave Hansen and other candidates for the top party post.
Bridgewater, a management consultant who was an education adviser to Huntsman in 2005, said he was disappointed that current party vice chairman Todd Weiler has gotten out of the chairman's race.
Weiler decided Monday to drop out and endorsed Hansen, a current political consultant to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
Current GOP chairman Stan Lockhart, a Micron lobbyist, isn't seeking a second two-year term.
Bridgewater, asked to run for party chairman two years ago by Huntsman, said he couldn't do it then because he was involved in McCain's presidential run.
"I was a 10-state coordinator for Sen. McCain, and was on his campaign payroll," said Bridgewater, 48. "I believed it would be a conflict" to be raising money and doing grassroots work for a presidential primary candidate "while still trying to be the spokesman for Utah Republicans."
Actually, Utah Republicans weren't McCain supporters early on — 90 percent of them voted for Mitt Romney, a Mormon and much-loved for his work on the 2002 Winter Olympics — in the 2008 GOP primary in Utah.
Bridgewater said he, like Huntsman, was a McCain supporter "because while I love Mitt, I didn't believe it was the right time for him to run (for president) — and as it turned out he was not the party nominee."
He doesn't believe being a McCain supporter will harm him with GOP delegates this year.
"Those who know me will vote for or against me based on my abilities to lead this (Utah) party, not on that (presidential) race," said Bridgewater.
Bridgewater won the most delegates in the GOP state conventions in 2002 and 2004 but ultimately lost the Republican 2nd District primary both years to John Swallow.
But Bridgewater said his grassroots organizing ability — seen in those contests as well as his work for President George W. Bush in 2004 and McCain in 2008 — will come in handy running the state party.
While Utah is still a very Republican state, GOP primaries here are very poorly attended, said Bridgewater. "We are losing grassroots support."
And much work needs to be done in Salt Lake County, where Republicans lost a state Senate seat and two state House seats in 2008, as well as control of the Salt Lake County Council, he added.
Younger Utahns may still vote Republican, but "they don't know why" they support that party, said Bridgewater. Education and recruitment will be a key part of his chairmanship, he added.
Hansen has the support of Hatch; Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah (who faces re-election in 2010); Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah; and state Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
Bridgewater said he hopes for Huntsman's endorsement and already has the support "of a number of legislators and other leaders in the party."
"Historically there have been a number of candidates for chairman, all adding diversity to the race," Bridgewater noted. He expects the same this year.
In the 2002 2nd District race there ended up to be 12 GOP candidates, Bridgewater said, and yet he won the most delegate votes in the convention. Bridgewater hopes for a repeat of that outcome in the June state party convention this year.
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