Count in Cory Green, a political newcomer from Syracuse.
With U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop‘s decision not to seek re-election to the 1st Congressional District post in 2020, the jockeying to replace the Brigham City Republican, completing his ninth term, has begun. Two Republicans have already announced plans to run for the 1st District seat — Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt and Tina Cannon, a Morgan County councilwoman. Green, a security consultant and part-time trucker, also says he plans to run, with a formal announcement coming later in September.
Many more big names are mulling bids, including Stevenson, the former Layton mayor; Handy, a Republican from Layton; and Hough, co-founder of Ogden-based nutritional supplement-maker Nutraceutical.
“We’re strongly looking at it,” said Stevenson, elected to his Davis County Commission seat just last year. “We’re doing some research and looking into some things, but everything looks positive right now. We feel very good about the support we’re getting in Davis, Weber and Box Elder counties.”
Handy, in his fifth term in the Utah House, is weighing the likely support he might get and prospects of raising the funds needed to wage a bid.
“It’s very flattering to have my name considered. I am looking at it. There’s a lot to consider,” Handy said. “I am considering the sort of support I would get.”
Hough, who lives in Park City, said he’s waiting, watching for other “dominos that might fall” before making a definitive decision. But a possible bid is on his radar screen. He previously chaired the state party, according to his LinkedIn bio, and also served as national committeeman for Utah on the Republican National Committee.
“I have been thinking about it for some time and am still thinking about it,” Hough said.
Other big names have been mentioned as possible contenders by political watchers like UtahPolicy.com and Deseret News analysts Frank Pignanelli and LaVarr Webb. They include Clearfield Mayor Mark Shepherd, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Commissioner Kerry Gibson, Utah Rep. Paul Ray and Scott Simpson, head of the Utah Credit Union Association. None immediately returned calls from the Standard-Examiner seeking comment.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of interest,” said Bob Hunter, director of Weber State University‘s Olene Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service.
Hunter sees Stevenson as a potentially strong candidate. “A very energetic, outgoing, visionary kind of guy,” Hunter said.
At the same time, he noted Simpson’s strong ties to the Utah Republican Party. Simpson served as executive director of the state party for nearly five years according to his LinkedIn bio, from June 1998 until April 2003.
“People remember (Simpson) fondly. He was an excellent director of the Republican Party,” Hunter said. “He has been a strong resource for many other campaigns.”
Gibson, from Weber County, used to serve as a Weber County commissioner and state representative from the county.
The 1st District includes Weber County, northern Davis County and eight other counties in northern and northeastern Utah. Bishop won each of his nine House elections by wide margins and Hunter calls it a “safe Republican seat.” Shepherd, as Clearfield mayor, serves in a nonpartisan post. Otherwise, all the declared or potential candidates named thus far have won election as Republicans or held leadership posts in the party.
Whatever the case, Democrats are weighing their options. “We’re looking at several names for that seat and have approached a few people, but nothing concrete yet,” said Zach Thomas, chairman of the Weber County Democratic Party.
Either way, Handy expects a crowded field, maybe up to a dozen on the Republican side alone. He suspects candidates may have to spend upwards of $500,000 to wage a serious campaign. “That’s the big challenge,” he said.
Weber County Republican Party Chairman Ryan Wilcox, for his part, thinks those interested in running should probably make their candidacies known sooner rather than later, ideally before the end of the year. Unless they have their own financial resources to draw on, they’ll need time to raise the funds required to wage a serious bid.
THOSE WHO AREN’T RUNNING
As for the politicians who have opted out of running, family considerations and a desire to serve inside Utah are some of the reasons cited.
“It’s a very clear ‘no’ for me,” said Adams, the District 22 state senator and a Republican from Layton. “That would be an extreme honor, but we’ve got a lot to do here in Utah and I’m focused on that.”
Wilson, the District 15 state representative and a Kaysville Republican, is similarly focused on Utah matters.
“He’s grateful to have his name mentioned,” said Matt Lusty, deputy chief of staff for the Utah House. “But right now he’s focused on serving Utahns as speaker of the House and is not planning on running for anything outside of his current House district.”
Weiler, the District 23 state senator, said he’s “flattered” to have been put forward as a potential candidate, but has no plans to run for the U.S. House post. Though candidates aren’t required by law to live in the districts they’re elected to service, the Woods Cross Republican noted he lives outside the 1st District, just south of the district boundary in the 2nd District, represented by GOPer Chris Stewart.
Wilde, the District 53 state rep and a Republican from Croydon, said in an Aug. 20 Facebook post that a U.S. House bid “just isn’t right for our family at this point.”
Sandall, the District 17 senator and a Republican from Tremonton, said he made the decision not run with his family. That said, he hadn’t seriously been considering a bid.
Perry, the District 29 representative and a Republican from Perry, didn’t completely dismiss the possibility, but prospects are unlikely.
“Have people asked me to run? Yes,” Perry said. “You never say never, but if I was a betting man, I wouldn’t put a lot of money on it. I’ve got family obligations, things with my boys, so at this point, I don’t see it happening.”