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Utah Gov. Herbert may face GOP challenger

Utah Gov. Herbert may face GOP challenger

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah State Sen. John Valentine said Tuesday he will make a decision on whether to challenge Gov. Gary Herbert for the GOP nomination by the first week in November.

Valentine, the former state Senate president, told The Associated Press he wants to give Herbert more time to show his leadership capabilities before making a decision on running.

Herbert, who had been serving as lieutenant governor, took office on Aug. 11 following Jon Huntsman's resignation to become U.S. ambassador to China.

A special election will be held in 2010 to fill out the remainder of Huntsman's term, with Republican delegates choosing the party's nominee in May.

Two potential Republican challengers -- Hinckley Institute of Politics Director Kirk Jowers and Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce President Lane Beattie -- have already withdrawn their names from consideration.

No Democratic opponents have stepped forward yet, although Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon is seen as the most likely candidate.

Valentine says he's looking for specifics in Herbert's performance in office. So far, Herbert has given few details about he plans to address his three top priorities -- energy, education and economic development -- as the state faces a $700 million budget shortfall amid one of the worst recessions in its history.

"We felt like we needed to give him some space to be able to chart a course in these very difficult times," said Valentine, who had considered making a campaign announcement by the end of August.

Valentine's comments come a day after Herbert's political action committee showed it has about $142,000 in cash on hand. That figure is likely to shrink once Herbert gets all the bills for his elaborate inauguration ceremony, which will total about $30,000, according to his spokeswoman, Angie Welling.

Valentine's campaign finance report shows he has raised about $187,000, although only $2,000 of that has come this year. Valentine's campaign report does not list expenditures for this year. A filing on those figures isn't due until Jan. 10.

Only candidates who fail to win 60 percent of convention delegate votes are forced into a primary.

"The money race is never the race that really counts," Valentine said. "The race that really counts is the race at the ballot box or the race at the convention."

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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