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SALT LAKE CITY — Former congressional candidate Morgan Philpot said Wednesday he's going to run for governor, taking on Gov. Gary Herbert, a fellow Republican.
He is the second member of the GOP to challenge Herbert in next year's election. Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork, announced last month he was getting into the race.
"I like Gary Herbert. I consider him a friend," Philpot said. "I run with respect for him. He and I are different people. We have different views on what the condition of America and Utah is and what needs to happen in the next four years."
He declined to elaborate, citing his formal announcement planned for Thursday at the state Capitol.
During this fall's debate over redistricting, Philpot first suggested he may challenge Herbert. He accused the governor of pressuring lawmakers to ensure the state's new congressional boundaries kept Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, from getting into the governor's race.
Philpot said then that "the Matheson threat is of greater concern to Utah's governor than fairness and due process. Herbert's latest move represents a pattern of behavior Utahns should find disturbing."
Matheson, the state's only Democrat in Congress, has yet to announce whether he'll run for re-election in the 2nd District, or in the state's new 4th District or for governor.
The governor "is just continuing to lead the state. He's not looking over his shoulder," Herbert's campaign spokesman, Ben Horsley, said.
"Gov. Herbert is both pleased and proud of what has been accomplished in Utah under his leadership, and is confident that the voters of Utah will continue to support his diligent efforts to lead Utah through these uniquely challenging and turbulent times."
I like Gary Herbert. I consider him a friend. I run with respect for him. He and I are different people. We have different views on what the condition of America and Utah is and what needs to happen in the next four years.
Philpot, an attorney who served in the Legislature and as a state GOP official, nearly defeated Matheson in 2010. But he said he decided against another run for Congress after looking at both the 2nd and new 4th districts.
"As much as I tried to make that work, I've always tried to follow my gut in politics. My gut was telling me no. The move required for my family was just too much," he said. "It just didn't seem right."
Although Congressional candidates only have to live in the state they seek to represent, not the specific district, Philpot said he and his family looked at moving from Orem to Nephi, Tooele, Salt Lake or Bountiful. "It's a pretty big jump," he said.
Herbert recently raised some $1 million at his annual "Governor's Gala" fundraiser, but Philpot said he wasn't scared off by the size of the incumbent's war chest.
"Not at all. Especially given what I was able to do last time," Philpot said, referring to his largely grassroots campaign in 2010. "I think people know I have the ability to campaign very effectively with very little money. The kind of money that's going into politics today is getting a little obscene."
Nor was he deterred by Sumsion already being in the race. "He's a really good man, a good legislator. He'll be a good candidate for governor," Philpot said.
Sumsion welcomed Philpot's candidacy. "I think we'll be friends even at the end of this process," Sumsion said. "We each bring some different talents to it and some different issues as well."