Wimmer declares his candidacy for Congress
It's a district that doesn't even exist yet, but state Rep. Carl Wimmer has declared his candidacy for Utah's new fourth seat.
Wimmer, who has been raising money for months, testing the waters for a potential campaign, took the leap to create a campaign committee with the Federal Election Committee.
"In the eyes of the FEC, I am an official candidate," said Wimmer, who will campaign for the office and raise money, but says he won't make an official announcement until September or October.
That is about the time that the Legislature is expected to finalize the boundaries for the new congressional district, although many of the maps that have been submitted put Wimmer's Herriman home in the new 4th District.
"There are certainly some advantages to being first out of the gate, in that you may affect the way others react," said University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank.
Burbank said that Wimmer has positioned himself as a strong conservative, which should help him in a fight for the Republican nomination, but could hinder him in the general election.
"He'll have a bigger audience and may have a bit of trouble, depending on the configuration of the district, communicating the message to voters that he can take into account a range of views," Burbank said.
One other candidate Kurt Bradburn has filed to run in Utah's 3rd Congressional District. Chuck Williams, a former Air Force pilot and Vietnam veteran, has said he will run for the 2nd Congressional District seat.
Wimmer said he didn't anticipate creating the campaign committee so soon, but "we had been so successful raising money and so successful in gathering and gaining endorsements, that really we were no longer in the exploratory phase."
Wimmer would not say how much he has raised and won't have to file a report until mid-October. Earlier, he said he had raised more than $100,000 during his "testing-the-waters" phase.
His candidacy creates the potential that he will leave the state Legislature next year to focus on the congressional race.
State law prohibits legislators from soliciting or receiving contributions during the 45-day legislative session which runs from late January to mid-March just a few weeks before delegates narrow the field of candidates at the state convention.
"It's something we're discussing right now," said Wimmer. "The bottom line is my constituents deserve to have good representation. If I'm not able to represent them sufficiently during a congressional campaign, then we would seriously look at [resigning]."
The congressional races will likely be an attractive target to state lawmakers and other politicians who are looking to advance, said Burbank. In addition to the new fourth seat, current U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz has said he will probably run against Sen. Orrin Hatch, and 2nd District Rep. Jim Matheson Utah's lone Democrat in Congress has said he is keeping his options open.
That creates the potential for three open House seats, a first in Utah history.
Wimmer said he anticipates the 2nd and 3rd districts will draw more interest than the 4th District. "I don't anticipate any conservative Republicans jumping in and running against me," he said.
Wimmer was elected to the Legislature in 2006, and has most notably pushed legislation restricting abortion, expanding gun rights and trying to assert state sovereignty over the federal government.
He currently runs a landscaping business and teaches concealed-weapons courses.