House Speakers Stephens to Run for Governor

House Speakers Stephens to Run for Governor

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Long considered a potential contender in next year's run for governor, Utah House Speaker Marty Stephens, R-Farr West, has announced he will run.

"I can't foresee anything that could make me not run," Stephens told the Deseret Morning News.

He said he'll make a formal announcement in late October or early November.

Stephens, 49, has hired Gov. Mike Leavitt's former campaign manager, Allyson Bell, to run his campaign and has rented a suite of offices in Salt Lake City for his headquarters.

A week ago he held a fund-raising event that brought in $180,000. All told, Stephens said he has "between $250,000 and $300,000" in his campaign account.

In the fall of 1999, Stephens and a few House supporters each paid $800 for a poll of GOP state delegates that found Leavitt had problems with his party's conservative wing.

While Stephens toyed with the idea of a 2000 race against Leavitt, he eventually supported the governor's bid for a third term and even served on the governor's executive campaign committee.

Stephens also started an aggressive fund-raising effort and won an unprecedented third, two-year term as speaker last November.

Stephens appeared ready to challenge Leavitt in 2004, if Leavitt had decided to run for a fourth term. Leavitt now is seeking congressional approval to head the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The 2004 GOP field will be crowded.

Others seeking the Republican nomination include former Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr., the son of billionaire industrialist Jon Huntsman Sr.; Regents Chairman Nolan Karras; state Sen. Parley Hellewell, R-Orem; and millionaire businessman Fred Lampropoulos. Utah County Commissioner Gary Herbert and former U.S. Rep. Merrill Cook also are possible candidates for the nomination.

University of Utah Law School dean Scott Matheson Jr., son of the late governor, is seeking the Democratic nomination.

Stephens has been meeting with GOP legislators in their home districts this spring and summer. A week ago Stephens was in St. George on an official tour of Dixie State College, but also put aside time to meet with supporters of local GOP House members.

Stephens, a Zions First National Bank vice president, said it will probably take between $2.5 million and $3 million to run a good campaign through the 2004 state Republican convention next May, a June primary and into the November election.

Married and the father of six children, Stephens says his experience in state government and his plan to reorganize state government will make him stand out in a crowded GOP field.

"Utah must decide what are the 'must haves' and what are the 'nice to haves.' I put education, roads, water and public safety as 'must haves.' And I'll make the tough choices to reduce or eliminate the 'nice to haves' that we can no longer afford, and move that money to our priorities."

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

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