SALT LAKE CITY — Alex Dunn, the Provo business executive being recruited by a top adviser to former presidential candidate Mitt Romney to run against Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, announced Tuesday he won't get in the race.
"Given my current responsibilities as president of an incredible company and to my young family, my wife and I have decided now is not the right time," Dunn, president of Vivint Inc., a home security company, said in a statement.
Lee's chief of staff, Boyd Matheson, said for the senator, "This never has been, and never will be, about another candidate or political campaign — it is about a set of principles and policies that make life better for the people of Utah."
Matheson said those "who seriously consider the positive agenda Sen. Lee is driving realize that he is exactly the person they want in Washington fighting for them, their family, their community and their business."
Dunn's decision came the same day as reports that Lee has hired a top Republican opposition research firm headed by Romney's 2012 presidential campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, head of America Rising LLC.
A BYU graduate who worked for Romney's 2002 run for governor of Massachusetts and served in his administration, Dunn was asked to run against Lee in next year's GOP primary by Spencer Zwick.
Zwick, who helped raise nearly $1 billion for Romney's 2012 presidential race as his national finance chairman, told the Deseret News last week that Lee's involvement in the 2013 federal government shutdown hurt the GOP.
But Zwick also said he would not "stand in the way" if Lee becomes the party's nominee. A number of potential challengers, including Romney's middle son, Josh, have already taken themselves out of the race.
Dunn said in his statement he considered challenging Lee "because I'm deeply concerned about the serious challenges that face our country" and "while these problems continue to get worse, our elected officials in D.C. are completely gridlocked."
He never mentioned Lee by name, but said as a result of that gridlock, "Somehow, compromise has become a dirty word, and taking ideologically rigid stands on every issue is celebrated on both sides of the political spectrum."
Earlier, Rhoades told the National Review Online in a statement that America Rising is "excited to join Sen. Lee's team in his re-election effort. The senator is working to unite the Republican Party around common sense solutions and a positive agenda."
In the statement, Rhoades said that "Utah needs Mike Lee in the United States Senate, and America Rising LLC will help ensure his campaign has the tools they need to take on an opponent while the senator focuses on taking his message directly to the people."
The National Republican Senatorial Committee is also gearing up for a potential effort to unseat Lee, who was elected in 2010 after Utah GOP delegates voted out longtime Sen. Bob Bennett in a state party convention.
"The NRSC will do whatever it takes to ensure Sen. Lee can continue to serve Utah families," Executive Director Ward Baker said. "If anyone runs against a Republican incumbent, they should understand they will have the full weight of the NRSC against them."
A Vivint spokeswoman said Dunn would not be available for additional comment.
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