OREM — State Rep. Stephen Sandstrom announced Monday a bid for Utah's new 4th Congressional District seat where will take on fellow Republican and legislative colleague Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman.
Sandstrom, of Orem, said he went through a "very methodical" process before deciding between the 2nd and 4th districts. He currently lives in the 3rd District but did not want to challenge Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz.
"The 4th was the best fit for me," he said.
The Utah Legislature recently redrew congressional district boundaries, adding a fourth district per the 2010 census. The 4th District includes heavily populated southwestern Salt Lake and western Utah counties and more rural Sanpete and Juab counties. It is the smallest district geographically.
Sandstrom, who lives about 15 blocks outside the boundary, said he intends to move to northwestern Utah County. "I want to make sure I live in the district I represent," he said.
Wimmer said Monday he was surprised to see Sandstrom enter the 4th District race and that he didn't even receive a phone call from him.
"He told me a couple of weeks ago at the Capitol that he was not running in the 4th," said Wimmer, who kicked off his campaign last month.
Early on, Sandstrom said, he anticipated running in the 3rd District because it was expected that Chaffetz would challenge Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "He flat out told me he was running for the Senate," Sandstrom said of Chaffetz.
When Chaffetz decided to run for re-election, Sandstrom starting looking for another district, and now finds himself vying for the same office as another prominent Utah House Republican.
"Unfortunately, it worked out that way," Sandstrom said. "Carl's a friend of mine. He's a good guy. People should consider him, but I want them to consider me, too."
Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love also is expected to jump into the 4th District fray.
"This is going to be an election cycle for the ages," said Utah GOP Chairman Thomas Wright. "There's some interesting dynamics with those three candidates."
Intraparty battles sometimes lead to bad feelings, but Wright said he believes the candidates understand it's not personal but about getting the best nominee. He said it's hard to say whether one candidate will emerge from the state Republican Party convention next April or whether there will be a primary.
A state representative member since 2006, Sandstrom touched off one of Utah's most contentious legislative sessions earlier this year with his hard-line stance on illegal immigration, including an enforcement-only bill initially patterned after controversial legislation in Arizona. A modified bill passed along with several other immigration reform measures, but is currently tied up in a federal lawsuit.
Sandstrom, 47, said immigration reform will not be one of his top priorities should he be elected to Congress, though he notes he would be the only elected official in Washington to have passed such legislation.
“I am not, nor ever will be, a single-issue legislator,” he said. “There are too many needs, viewpoints, and variables that affect our safety, security, and quality of life. I have proven my capability to listen to the needs of my constituents and bring balanced policy solutions to the table.”
Sandstrom put job creation, growing the economy and state rights higher on his list than illegal immigration.
The owner of a successful architecture firm, Sandstrom figures it will take several hundred thousand dollars in campaign funds to get him to the state convention. He said he has put in $50,000 of his own money and raised about $12,000 so far.
Wimmer, a former police officer who considers himself a "middle class, blue collar worker," said he has raised about $150,000 from 400 donors and "I don't intend on stopping."
Utah law does not allow state lawmakers to raise campaign funds during the legislative session, which next convenes in January. Wimmer said he is "seriously considering" resigning his House seat so that won't be an issue, but Sandstrom said that is not his plan at this point.
"Right now, my thought is to stay in office. There are things I want to do. There are bills I want to run," he said. But, he conceded, that is subject to change depending on how things go. With Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr. running for president and other Republicans seeking re-election, this is a tough year to raise money, he said.
Sandstrom, a married father of four children and grandfather of one, has had Congress in his sights from a young age.
"It really is a goal I've had my entire life," he said.