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OREM — State Rep. Stephen Sandstrom announced Monday a bid for Utah's new 4th Congressional District seat where he will take on fellow Republican and legislative colleague Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman.
Sandstrom, of Orem, said he went through a "very methodical" process before deciding between the 2nd and 4th districts. He currently lives in the 3rd District but did not want to challenge Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz.
"The 4th was the best fit for me," he said.
The Utah Legislature recently redrew congressional district boundaries, adding a fourth district per the 2010 census. The 4th District includes heavily populated southwestern Salt Lake and western Utah counties and more rural Sanpete and Juab counties. It is the smallest district geographically.
Sandstrom, who lives about 15 blocks outside the new district, said he intends to move to northwestern Utah County. "I want to make sure I live in the district I represent," he said.
There are too many needs, viewpoints, and variables that affect our safety, security, and quality of life. I have proven my capability to listen to the needs of my constituents and bring balanced policy solutions to the table.
A Utah House member since 2006, Sandstrom touched off one of Utah's most contentious legislative sessions earlier this year with his hard-line stance on illegal immigration, including an enforcement-only bill initially patterned after controversial legislation in Arizona. A modified bill passed along with several other immigration reform measures, but is currently tied up in a federal lawsuit.
Sandstrom, 47, said immigration reform will not be one of his top priorities should he be elected to Congress, though he notes he would be the only elected official in Washington to have passed such legislation.
“I am not, nor ever will be, a single-issue legislator,” he said. “There are too many needs, viewpoints, and variables that affect our safety, security, and quality of life. I have proven my capability to listen to the needs of my constituents and bring balanced policy solutions to the table.”
Sandstrom put job creation, growing the economy and state rights higher on his list than illegal immigration.
In deciding to run in the new 4th District, Sandstrom will be taking on fellow Utah House and GOP member Wimmer, who kicked off his campaign last month.
"Unfortunately, it worked out that way," Sandstrom said. "Carl's a friend of mine. He's a good guy. People should consider him, but I want them to consider me, too."
Wimmer said he was taken by surprise when he heard Sandstrom will be running against him, saying he didn't even get a phone call first from Sandstrom. But he added that he'll be the first to welcome Sandstrom to the race and said it will be a good campaign.
I'm running because I've lived the American dream. I've been a businessman. I've served time in the military and been successful in taking over a business from my father that was failing, and I just feel like I have something to give the people of the state of Utah as their congressman.
When asked what separates them from each other, Wimmer said his voting record is his strength. Sandstrom said he has the life experience that has prepared him to be a congressman.
Sandstrom, who runs a successful architecture firm, figures it will take several hundred thousand dollars in campaign funds to get him to the state Republican Party convention next May. He said he has put in $50,000 of his own money and raised about $12,000 so far.
Utah law does not allow state lawmakers to raise campaign funds during the legislative session, which next convenes in January. Wimmer has talked about resigning his seat so that won't be an issue, but Sandstrom said that is not his plan at this point.
"Right now, my thought is to stay in office. There are things I want to do. There are bills I want to run," he said. But, he conceded, that is subject to change depending on how things go. With Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman Jr. running for president and other Republicans seeking re-election, this is a tough year to raise money, he said.
Sandstrom, a married father of four children and grandfather of one, has had Congress in his sights from a young age.
"It really is a goal I've had my entire life," he said. "I'm running because I've lived the American dream. I've been a businessman. I've served time in the military and been successful in taking over a business from my father that was failing, and I just feel like I have something to give the people of the state of Utah as their congressman."