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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Regents Chairman Nolan Karras has stopped hinting and has openly declared he will go after the Republican nomination for governor.
"I believe I am a good candidate, with a good resume, and I think I have spent my time, paid my dues and have earned my way," Karras said. "I have as good a shot of being governor as anyone."
Karras, 58, long served as campaign chairman for Gov. Mike Leavitt, who was announced Monday as President Bush's choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Leavitt previously had not decided whether to seek re-election.
"Frankly, we've tried to send the signal irrespective of what he did. We've been trying to do it very politely. He is a good friend," Karras said. "Frankly, the governor leaving makes it easier for party loyalists who might be worried about picking on the incumbent."
Karras is a native of Roy and has had a steady involvement in political office dating back to the mid-1970s, when he was named to the Roy City Planning Commission.
He served as chairman from 1977 to 1978 and then was elected to the Utah House of Representatives, where he served five terms and became majority leader and then speaker.
Karras also served as Leavitt's representative on the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Games, was chairman of the state Olympics finance committee and was a former chairman of the State Building Board for five years.
He is a certified public accountant and an investment adviser and serves on the boards of Beneficial Life and ScottishPower.
"I don't pretend to believe I am in a favorite role, or that I have somewhat of an edge," Karras said, adding that he is a "severe underdog" when it comes to marshaling the resources of Jon Huntsman Jr., the son of billionaire industrialist Jon M. Huntsman, or Fred Lampropoulos, chairman of a medical equipment company.
"I see it as a long road, and I don't have any illusions about having the natural advantage," he said.
Other possible candidates for the nomination include former U.S. Rep Jim Hansen and banker and Utah House Speaker Marty Stephens.
The Democratic hopeful is Scott M. Matheson Jr., oldest son of the former Utah governor and dean of the University of Utah Law School.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)