Contenders Line Up for Matheson's Congressional Seat

Contenders Line Up for Matheson's Congressional Seat

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The list of Republicans considering a run against Utah's Democractic Rep. Jim Matheson is growing.

On Friday, Jason Chaffetz, chief of staff for Gov. Jon Hunstman said he's thinking about running for the 2nd Congressional District seat next year.

Also considering a bid, State. Rep. LaVar Christensen, D-Draper, Salt Lake County Sheriff Aaron Kennard and KSL radio talk show host Doug Wright.

Matheson is serving his third term in the heavily Republican district, winning his last contest by nearly a 12 percent margin. But Republican still see him as vulnerable, National Republican Committee spokesman Ed Petru said.

"The race is absolutely on the radar," Petru said."At this point, there are a lot of capable candidates looking at the race."

Utah's state Republican Party Chairman Joe Cannon says he has heard from Chaffetz, Kennard and Christensen about possible bids.

"There's sort of an intensity around the three of them," Cannon said.

So far, none of the possible candidates are ready to commit.

Christensen said his decision will be based on where he thinks he can do the most good. Kennard was not available for comment. And Wright, whose name is even popping up in some Washington, D.C. circles, says he's "flattered" but "not a candidate."

Chaffetz, who ran Huntsman's campaign for governor in 2004, says he'll make a decision about a run by September. He'll base his decision in part on his family -- he has three kids ages 12, 9 and 4 -- and in part on the governor's support. The logistics of his current job might not mesh with running a campaign, so Chaffetz might take a leave of office or leave his job.

Huntsman's spokeswoman Tammy Kikuchi said that "until Jason is an announced candidate, there is nothing to say."

Chaffetz says no matter who gets in the race, it will be important for the party to unite behind that candidate and "avoide the bloody battle that happened the last few times," referencing several bitter intra-party primary challenges.

"I don't know that I'm the right person or even the best person, but I'm interested enough to be considering it," Chaffetz said. "It is critical to me, and I think it is critical to whoever runs, that it be an entirely positive campaign about the issues."

Matheson's spokeswoman, Alyson Heyrend, said the congressman believes his Washington record is in line with what 2nd Congressional District voters want.

She said no matter the challenger, Matheson "plans to do what he's always done, which is raise a lot of money and conduct a very vigorous campaign"

According to Federal Election Commission filings in mid-July, Matheson's campaign account had $333,346 in cash.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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