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SALT LAKE CITY — Someone might need to remind Rep. Rob Bishop that he's running for re-election.
Asked Monday how his campaign in the 1st Congressional District is going, the eight-term Republican said he didn't know.
"Those of you who know me, realize I'm a horrible candidate," he told the Deseret News and KSL editorial boards. "I'm probably the most optimistic pessimist you've ever met, so I always think everything is bad. I have no idea."
The often sarcastic congressman said he can't afford polling and relies on the media for that. At least one survey shows he doesn't have much to worry about.
A UtahPolicy.com poll in September showed him comfortably ahead of Democrat Lee Castillo 58 percent to 22 percent, with United Utah Party candidate Eric Eliason pulling 8 percent and the Green Party's Adam Davis 3 percent. Another 8 percent were undecided.
Campaigning for Bishop, 67, is typically a low-key affair because no one has seriously challenged him during his tenure. If he wins this year, his ninth term would be his last. He said he isn't running in 2020, fueling speculation about his future.
A former Utah House speaker, his name has come up as a possible candidate for governor.
"You'll have to ask me that question in December," he said.
So, he's not ruling it out?
"It's appropriate for you to say that," he said.
So, that's not a no?
"Not yet," Bishop said.
First things first. He still has a congressional race to run.
Asked if he has seen much of Bishop in the campaign so far, Castillo said "not at all. He is disconnected."
Castillo said he invited Bishop to a meet-and-greet with voters so "we could begin to build bridges across party lines," but hasn't heard back.
"He hasn't been out talking to people and we have," Castillo said. "He's lost touch with the people he's supposed to represent."
Conversely, Eliason said he's heard from longtime observers that Bishop is out and about more in this race than he has been in the past, doing town hall meetings and going to county fairs.
"He should have this one easily, but it's a unique challenge. He's run against a Democrat year after year after year and now has a moderate (opponent) and no one really knows how that works out," Eliason said, referring to himself as the moderate.
Bishop said his district remains conservative and that people want the things he is pushing for and to be empowered to make decisions for themselves.
Bishop, Castillo and Eliason will meet next week in a Utah Debate Commission debate at Utah State University. Davis didn't poll high enough to qualify under the commission's rules.
Public lands issues remain at the top of Bishop's agenda, specifically fighting for access and more local control.
Bishop said he wants to push through his bipartisan bill to fund $12.7 billion in backlogged National Parks Service maintenance, including $266 million in Utah. The Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act would use royalties from energy development on public lands to repair or replace deteriorating roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, restrooms and historic buildings.
Both Eliason and Castillo said Bishop has had 16 years, including the past three as House Natural Resources Committee chairman, to come up with a solution for national park maintenance, but is addressing it only six weeks before the election.
"It's posturing," Eliason said.
Castillo said it should never have come to a backlog issue.