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Scott G. Winterton, Dnews
Lane Beattie

Two Republicans often rumored as interested in the 2010 governor's race say they are serious about the contest.

Both Lane Beattie and Kirk Jowers say they will wait until after Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert is officially sworn in as governor before announcing whether they will run. But they both answered "yes" when asked if they were seriously considering running for governor next year.

Jowers, 42, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, seems closest to a decision.

He told the Deseret News that by mid-August any serious gubernatorial candidate "should be organizing," if only behind the scenes if Herbert has not yet been sworn in. "You need to be lining up some donors, some (big-name) supporters, moving ahead," Jowers said.

"Gary has done an incredible job working the (state GOP) delegates," Jowers said. But that doesn't mean Herbert's Republican nomination is certain — one only needs 40 percent of the state delegate vote to get into a Republican primary, and an outright convention win is always possible.

"In any race, you need to be authentic and articulate, take your stands — in some areas you may be to the right of Gary, but on others you may be more moderate," said Jowers, adding that historically GOP delegates are open to hearing challengers' arguments. This would be Jowers' first race as a candidate, although he has been closely involved in a number of contests, including Mitt Romney's 2008 GOP presidential campaign.

Beattie, 57, president of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and former president of the Utah Senate, said in deference to Herbert, whom he described as "a longtime friend," he wouldn't be making any public statements until after Herbert officially becomes governor.

"No one should steal his thunder" by starting a campaign before Herbert's official succession, added Beattie, who served 12 years in the Senate, from 1988 to 2000, the last six as president. At the same time, a challenge to Herbert should not be seen as an insult to him, said Beattie, but rather that others have different qualifications, personalities and themes they think can make a difference.

Herbert is expected to succeed Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who will resign his post after he is confirmed by the U.S. Senate as ambassador to China.

That nomination, while expected to proceed smoothly toward confirmation by senators, has not yet happened. President Barack Obama said in mid-May that he intended to nominate Huntsman, who won re-election last November.

While other people are waiting for the transition before announcing a decision, Herbert is not. He has already said that not only will he run in 2010, but if he wins then will run for his own full four-year term in 2012.

Dave Hansen, chairman of the Utah Republican Party, said Jowers and Beattie are "the only two" possible gubernatorial candidates drawing much consideration now. But Hansen added that some others, like state Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, and Provo Mayor Lewis Billings, could wait to see if Herbert makes any major missteps before deciding whether to challenge him within the party. However, that could push their decisions into at least December, when Herbert will release his first recommended state budget.

A 2008 change to the Utah Constitution says if a governor resigns or dies in his first year in office, the lieutenant governor becomes governor, but there's an election the following year to see who serves out the final two years of that four-year term.

Herbert, who served 12 years as a Utah County commissioner and was running for governor himself in 2004 when he decided to join Huntsman's ticket, has been working Republican delegates/loyalists for six years, eyeing 2012. But while Herbert will have the title of governor, as former Gov. Olene Walker had before him, Herbert has not won the seat on his own. Walker, who stepped up to the top post in November 2003 when then-Gov. Mike Leavitt accepted a post in the Bush administration, was knocked out of office in the 2004 GOP convention while trying to win the post on her own.

Jowers said the 2010 governor's race could cost between $5 million and $8 million, "depending on who is in the general election."

But the real challenge for any Republican who takes on Herbert will be the May 2010 state Republican Convention, where about 3,500 delegates will either give the nomination to one candidate (if he gets 60 percent of the vote) or winnow the field down to two, who will face off in a June closed GOP primary.

E-mail: bbjr@desnews.com