Stephens to Announce Governor Push

Stephens to Announce Governor Push

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Republican and Utah House Speaker Marty Stephens will formally announce his gubernatorial run on Saturday, presenting voters with a campaign that promotes job growth and better public schools while attacking "the rules and regulations" that erode personal freedom.

Stephens will join a crowded Republican field that may or may not include current Gov. Olene Walker.

His announcement -- set for 10 a.m. at the Farr West city hall, where Stephens entered politics when he was elected to the city council in 1983 -- will formalize months of informal nods toward a run. He's already resigned as a vice president at Zions Bank to devote his full attention to the campaign.

Without being specific, Stephens on Friday criticized what he sees as a growing assault on individual liberties.

"Every legislative session, I see people coming to the Capitol asking us to come and take away their rights and freedoms," Stephens said from Washington, D.C., where he was attending a convention. "There are a lot of rules and regulations in government that are prohibiting and preventing people from exercizing their individual rights and freedoms."

Pressed for details, Stephens demured and said he would let his campaign unfold in the coming months.

Stephens said he would push for "better funding and more accountability" in the public schools, quality jobs, economic development and more efficient state government.

He has no plans to pull back from his duties as speaker, a post that could give him a leg up politically on a campaign field that already includes former U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen, former U.S. ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr., Board of Regents Chairman Nolan Karras, Merit Medical chief executive Fred Lampropoulos, Utah County Commissioner Gary Herbert and state Sen. Parley Hellewell.

University of Utah law school dean Scott Matheson Jr. is the only known Democratic candidate for governor.

Stephens acknowledged both the good and bad of his speaker's position during a campaign.

"I'm going to be there during the legislation, I'm going to have to opine on every piece of legislation that the press wants to ask me about. I'm going to have a position on all of those, and most of the candidates won't have to do that. I'm also probably going to get more media opportunities because of that."

Stephens' resignation from Zions could help separate him from the contentious bank-credit union feud that has roiled Utah politics. Stephens has said he "wouldn't be surprised" if credit unions take an active role in the governor's race.

Last year, credit unions gave more than $120,000 to the Republican primary campaign of Rob Bishop in the 1st Congressional District. Bishop's primary victory knocked out former House Majority Leader Kevin Garn, a bank board chairman and one of Stephens' allies.

Walker, who became governor when former Gov. Mike Leavitt became head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, has not said whether she will run for a full term.

Walker's office on Friday said she hasn't set a deadline for an announcement of her intentions.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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