Even though he didn't represent residents in the Standard-Examiner's primary market, we were sad to hear about U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson's decision not to seek re-election.
The lone Democrat in Utah's congressional delegation decided this week not to seek an 8th term in office.
We understand Matheson's decision. He was expected to face a tough challenge in 2014 from Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, a Republican he narrowly defeated in 2012 in Utah's 4th Congressional District. It would have been another ugly and costly campaign.
Our concern, though, has nothing to do with Matheson's position on issues, which we always consider on a case-by-case basis. We just think it is better for Utah overall if the minority party has some voice in the political landscape of this distinctly red state.
Utah Democrats admit Matheson's decision is a blow; they're hoping it will set him up to challenge U.S. Sen. Mike Lee or Gov. Gary Herbert, both Republicans who are up for re-election in 2016.
Matheson, who comes from a distinguished and well-respected Utah family, isn't saying what his future political plans are. He is only 53. But we would like to encourage him to consider seriously running for a statewide office.
Government is set up in a way that offices have checks and balances in place. However, such checks and balances become limited when one political party controls all the elected offices.
We believe Utah might be better served if at least one statewide office were held by a member of the minority party. All you have to do is look at present circumstances in the Attorney General's Office as the best example to support this argument.
Matheson has shown he can appeal across party lines.
Utah State University political scientist Damon Cann said Matheson is better off stepping down now if he intends to seek statewide office.
"If he were to run and be defeated in his congressional election this year, he would be a weaker candidate than if he steps down now, doesn't seek re-election and doesn't have a loss added to his record," Cann told the Associated Press.
Cann said Matheson is the best candidate Democrats have on the horizon.
"There's no other name in Democratic Party politics in Utah that has the same sort of cache as the Matheson name," Cann said. "He just has a better shot and succeeding and he has people around the state who have voted for him before."
EDITOR'S NOTE: This editorial was re-written from its original posting to correct an error that indicated Jim Matheson should consider running for Attorney General because he was a former U.S. attorney. Jim's brother, Scott, was a former U.S. attorney. Jim Matheson is not an attorney.