Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-2) announced yesterday that he will not challenge GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch next year, closing the door on at least one possible statewide challenge. He did not rule out running against Gov. Gary Herbert (R), however.
Matheson, knowing he was facing an adverse redistricting situation as Republicans have full power in Salt Lake City, has repeatedly said he will be on the 2012 Utah ballot but refused to say for what office. In addition to potentially running against Herbert, the congressman could conceivably seek re-election in either Congressional District 2 or new District 4. None of the US House seats are favorable to a Democrat, but Matheson has won repeatedly in a heavy Republican district since his original election in 2000.
Though Mr. Matheson still has several political options before him, none of them are particularly good. Running statewide in 2012 with an unpopular President Obama leading the Utah Democratic ticket will not result in Matheson having a favorable turnout model.
During the redistricting special session, it was clear that Gov. Herbert was lobbying for a plan that would give Matheson a district he could win, thinking the Democrat would stay put if he had a reasonable chance to do so. The state legislature rejected that approach and Herbert acquiesced to their wishes and signed the bill, an action that may have endangered himself. There’s more to come here, but this decision is yet another favorable occurrence for Sen. Hatch who, at one time, appeared to be facing the most serious challenge of his long 36-year Senatorial career.