Rep. Rob Bishop says he developed a vision about what Utah’s next governor should do and how, and figured that maybe he was the best person to accomplish it. Then Thomas Wright — who like Bishop is a former Utah Republican Party Chairman — entered the race this month.
“I knew what he had to do as party chairman because I’ve been in those positions,” Bishop said. “His ability to bring people together has always struck me as truly unique. I decided that there was somebody else that would do a better job than me, and it was Thomas.”
So Bishop announced Monday that he will not run for governor, and endorsed Wright instead.
Bishop said in an interview that he has known every Utah governor who has served during the past 50 years and made a list of what he liked and disliked about how each governed. He came up with ideas about what he would like to see in the next governor.
“Every time somebody else came into the race, I tried to reevaluate the situation,” he said. “If I had somebody that I thought was my kind of conservative, somebody who bases decisions on conservative, constitutional principles and yet was pragmatic and creative in their solutions, I would be happy to defer to that person.”
He said that finally happened with Wright.
“I didn’t have to be governor to feel validated,” Bishop, 68, said after a long political career in Congress and the state Legislature that began at age 26. “If there was something that I could do that I thought no one else could — and it was significant — then I would have been happy to try.”
But he said that with Wright, he sees “somebody who I think can be a very strong and dynamic governor and can be a great counterbalance to the Legislature.”
Bishop added that he is “not really burned out with politics. I’m not tired. It’s just the correct thing to do” to support Wright.
He said it was also the correct decision not to run again for Congress for a 10th term, even though he loves serving there, “to allow someone else to start building seniority” to serve Utah in the long term. He promised in his last campaign that this would be his final term.
Wright praised Bishop and thanked him for his endorsement.
“All six Republican candidates know that Rob would have been a formidable foe. He always put the state and service first,” Wright said. “His endorsement is a compliment to me. I couldn’t be more excited. This gives us great momentum moving forward, and I am flattered.”
Bishop said his plans for after Congress are still unclear, but the former high school history teacher is considering a return to the classroom or finding ways to keep a hand in politics.
“I’ve agonized over what I was and was not going to do and finally decided not to do any of them,” he said. “I’m still interested in teaching and would love to try going back to high school. There have been some colleges that have talked to me.”
He’s also not ruling out politics, including potentially running for lieutenant governor with Wright or another Republican.
“If I have some talents that could be used in the political sphere, I’d be more than happy” to jump in, he said. “If somebody comes to me and they have something for which I can bring value to the state of Utah and help an administration out, I would be open to consider that. But not I’m not I’m not looking for it right now.”
When Republicans controlled the U.S. House, Bishop was the chairman of its Natural Resources Committee. He also served on the House Armed Service Committee, a position he used to protect Utah’s Hill Air Force Base.
Before going to Congress, Bishop served as speaker of the Utah House of Representatives, and for four years as state Republican Party chairman and also worked as a lobbyist in the state Capitol.
The race for governor is crowded.
Besides Wright, the other major Republican candidates who have announced include Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, former Gov. Jon Huntsman, former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, Salt Lake County Council member Aimee Winder Newton and tech-millionaire Jeff Burningham. Also running are Democrats Zachary Moses and Nikki Pino.
Incumbent Gov. Gary Herbert announced last year that he would not seek reelection.
Editor’s note • Jon Huntsman is a brother of Paul Huntsman, The Salt Lake Tribune’s owner and publisher.