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SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Ken Sumsion, who co-chaired the Legislature's Redistricting Committee, said Thursday he'll run against fellow Republican Gov. Gary Herbert.
"I'm going to take up this baton," Sumsion, a certified public accountant from American Fork who has served as a state representative since 2007, told the Deseret News.
"I can work with the Legislature. I can work with the citizens of the state. I feel it's our time. It's our time as a state," he said. "We can step out and lead."
One of the founders of the Legislature's conservative Patrick Henry caucus, Sumsion said his campaign will focus on the need for reforming public school funding by giving more spending control to local districts.
"Our education budget is huge and complicated and very, very few people understand all the moving parts," he said. "We're only going to become world class from the bottom up and not from the top down. I think I can be a leader in that discussion."
Part of that agenda is an increased effort to gain access to the state's federally controlled public lands, Sumsion said. "In the role of governor, I will push that issue, and do that by working with other states."
But Sumsion was careful not to directly criticize Herbert. Asked why he was running against another Republican, Sumsion said, "I like to think of it as more I am running for governor."
He said he was urged to stay in politics after telling supporters he would not run for another term in the Legislature. "Two weeks ago, I was basically retired," Sumsion joked. "I was looking forward to getting back and being with my family."
Since spring, Sumsion has been busy with redistricting, a process not completed until last month. Every 10 years, lawmakers must redraw congressional, legislative and state school board boundaries to reflect the most recent census.
This year's congressional map, which included the state's new 4th District seat, was harshly criticized by Democrats and others. The state Democratic Party has threatened to sue, saying the re-drawn districts disenfranchise Democratic voters.
Republicans are going to challenge each other to run for public office... We're going to support each of them equally.
–- Chairman Thomas Wright, state GOP
Sumsion, though, said he is proud of the work done, especially on the new map for state representatives. "We made the tough decisions, working with my own colleagues, my own friends," he said. "We did that under very difficult circumstances."
He described himself as "very consistent. I have my principles. I don't vary often. I'm very predictable. I don't' get lobbied by a lot of people because I try to follow those principles," including working toward a more efficient, leaner government.
Herbert, a former lieutenant governor, has held the state's top spot since former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. stepped down in 2009 to become U.S. ambassador to China.
Herbert had to run in 2010 for the remainder of Huntsman's term, but did not face serious GOP opposition. He handily beat his Democratic opponent, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon.
Sumsion is Herbert's first challenger in his bid for re-election to a four-year term. The news of Sumsion's entry into the race comes the day before Herbert's annual "Governor's Gala" fundraiser.
Herbert's campaign manager, Liv Moffat, said Thursday a GOP challenger wasn't a surprise.
"We don't want a challenger, definitely. We would have preferred to be the only candidate," Moffat said. "But we'll take it as they come."
State GOP Chairman Thomas Wright said, "Republicans are going to challenge each other to run for public office. I think it's great. There's always room for more. We're going to support each of them equally."
Wright said the party doesn't look at intra-party challenges as "strategically bad for us. We view it as a vetting process."