SALT LAKE CITY — There may be another candidate in what's already anticipated to be a crowded field for Utah governor in 2020 now that Rep. Rob Bishop is apparently eyeing a run.
A recent poll for the eight-term congressman about the race compared him to several potential candidates, including Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, retiring House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, and former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, according to UtahPolicy.com.
The online political news source reported Thursday the poll was an effort to measure how recognizable Bishop's name is with voters as well as identify vulnerabilities in himself and the competition.
Bishop, who is running for another two-year term in the 1st Congressional District that represents northern Utah, had little to say about a run for governor or the poll, which has not been made public.
"I am focused on this election and this job, and I’m not really going to consider anything else until this is completed," he said. "I did not pay for a poll nor did I conduct the poll or own the poll."
LaVarr Webb, publisher of UtahPolicy.com, said he "would not have guessed" that Bishop would be looking at the governor's race.
"Politicians do that sort of thing, kind of test the waters and see how well they might do," Webb said of the poll. "So I don't think it means he's definitely going to run for governor, but it shows he has some interest."
For several years, Bishop, 66, has said he intended to stay in Congress only through 2020, the longest he would be able to serve as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee under congressional term limits.
Gov. Gary Herbert has not been expected to seek re-election in two years, although his political adviser, Derek Miller, said Thursday "many of his supporters are asking him to consider another term."
Miller said that while he doesn't think the governor is reconsidering the race, Herbert "is keenly interested in ensuring the things the Herbert/Cox administration has implemented continue so as to put the state in its top economic position."
If Herbert doesn't run, that would make 2020 the first election in nearly three decades where a sitting governor wasn't in the race. There's a steady stream of likely candidates.
Cox, who was a recently elected 38-year-old state lawmaker when he was appointed lieutenant governor by Herbert in 2013 to fill a vacancy, declined to comment on the Bishop poll.
Chaffetz told the Deseret News more than two years ago he wanted to leave Congress in 2020 and return to Utah to run for governor but ended up stepping down from his congressional seat in 2017.
Now a Fox News contributor who travels to New York City at least once a month, Chaffetz also declined to talk about Bishop's interest in the race but said for him, running for governor is "still a possibility."
Hughes, who announced during the 2018 Legislature he would not seek re-election, said he's not running for governor — yet.
"I am not in, but I have not ruled it out. (I'm) still working on the job I've got," the speaker said. He said it is good for Utah "to have a deep field of candidates fighting to earn the support of the electorate."
That's because, "the deeper the talent pool, the harder the race, the better the candidate will be that prevails at the end. Our state can't help but be better served by a process like that," Hughes said.
He called Bishop, who also served as Utah House speaker, "an outstanding member of Congress. He would make the race for governor more competitive!"
Josh Romney, the son of Utah Senate candidate and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, has also been mentioned as a possible contender for governor but declined to comment on Bishop.
Bishop's name has also surfaced for another high-profile position, U.S. House speaker, with the surprise announcement Wednesday by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that he would not seek re-election this year.
Rep. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus, told the New York PostWednesday Ryan may not be replaced by someone already in leadership.
“I think a dark horse could be a guy like Rob Bishop, who nobody has on their radar screen. Rob Bishop is well liked by the left and the right,” Meadows said, sparking speculation Bishop might try for the speakership.
The Freedom Caucus also suggested Bishop as a possible House speaker in 2015, before Ryan stepped up to replace then-House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who resigned.
Bishop also said little about the speaker's race.22 comments on this story
"Anytime one is labeled as a dark horse candidate, it is very flattering and I appreciate their confidence in me," he said.
One of Bishop's opponents in the 1st District race, United Utah Party candidate Eric Eliason, said the congressman should drop out of the race because he's being distracted by the governor's race.
"The people of the 1st District need a full-time representative," Eliason said. "They won't have one if Rob Bishop is spending all of his time worrying about his next job instead of doing the job he has now."