Wimmer Returning to Capitol Hill? (Updated)

Written by Bob Bernick on . Posted in Today At Utah Policy

Could it be the return of The Wimmer?

Former Utah House Rep. Carl Wimmer, of Herriman, is considering running for the House District 58 seat of Rep. Spencer Cox, R-Fairview.

 

Cox was named Tuesday by GOP Gov. Gary Herbert as his new lieutenant governor designee.

Almost certainly the Utah Senate will confirm Cox next week, leaving the House 58 open.

GOP delegates to that district will meet within 30 days and pick a successor to Cox, whose name will then be sent up to Herbert for nomination.

That person would be expected to run for the seat next year.

The geographic area of District 58, which takes in Sanpete County and the Juab County area of Nephi, can be found here.

UtahPolicy couldn’t reach Wimmer Wednesday morning.

However, on his Facebook page Wimmer posted:

“My phone has been going crazy ever since the announcement of the new lieutenant governor. Congrats to Spencer Cox. Sherry (Wimmer’s wife) and I will be discussing whether or not to run for the open seat, but there are a lot of variables involved in our decision at this time.”

Chief among them are the geographic/political concerns.

Like all 75 House districts, the boundaries of House 58 were changed in the 2011 legislative redistricting.

This is a Republican Party decision in any case, no Democrat has held the central Utah area for more than 20 years.

While House 58 now includes Nephi, the largest city in the area, it now takes in all of Sanpete County.

That was the political base for Cox, who was a Sanpete County commissioner – and so well-known to county voters – when he won the redrawn House 58 (an open seat) last year.

Another Cox is in the race now – Jon Cox, a 4th cousin to Spencer. Jon ran Spencer’s legislative race a year ago. “I consider Spencer a brother,” Jon told UtahPolicy.

When Spencer’s Sanpete County Commission slot opened up, Jon got the job.

There are 53 state delegates in House 58, and Jon knows them well. “Forty are in Sanpete County, 13 in Juab County,” said Jon. Jon Cox’s current commission assignments are here.

Wimmer was considered the clear GOP frontrunner in the new U.S. House District 4 a year ago.

He even resigned his old Herriman House seat to concentrate on his U.S. congressional run.

But then Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love got in the race as a Republican.

She quickly became a national GOP star – and would have been the first African-American woman Republican in U.S. House history if she had not fallen to Democrat Jim Matheson by around 780 votes in a bitter and very expensive District 4 race.

To the surprise of many, Love eliminated Wimmer and other District 4 Republicans in the 2012 state GOP convention.

Needing a job, Wimmer, a former police office and national weightlifting record-holder, took a position with the Gunnison City Police and relocated his family south.

Wimmer is now the resource officer for the local high school there.

A constant blogger and Facebooker, Wimmer has kept his name in Utah politics.

But, according to former Sanpete County GOP chair Steven Clark, Wimmer has not been that active in local Republican politics – and it will be the House 58 delegates who will pick Cox’s replacement.

“I thought Carl would jump right in” to local politics, “but he didn’t,” Clark told UtahPolicy on Wednesday.

Another local Sanpete GOP activist said Wimmer “is a good man, but has only been here a year.”

And in rural Utah it is always best for a candidate to have deep roots.

Connie Smith, the former GOP chair of the Juab County party, said she, too, has heard Wimmer’s name mentioned after Herbert’s surprise pick of Cox on Tuesday.

There are several other interested Republicans, as well, she said.

One is former House Rep. Patrick Painter, R-Nephi.

Painter, a well-known Nephi car dealer, held the central Utah seat for some years.

But Painter told UtahPolicy after the 2011 redistricting that Nephi was no longer the geographic/political base of House 58.

Instead of running for House 58, Painter challenged GOP Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, in Senate 24.

Painter lost that GOP primary 39-61 percent.

Painter told UtahPolicy that he would decide by Wednesday night whether to get in the race for House 58 or not.

The new district’s population is about two-thirds Sanpete County and one-third Juab County, Painter said.

“My old district was completely different,” with Nephi being the population base and only the northern part of Sanpete County in his area, Painter added.

“If I get in, I’ll do fine” among the delegates, Painter said.

Many of the Senate 24 delegates are also delegates in House 58, and Painter was able to take a sitting GOP senator to a primary race last year.

Wimmer made a name for himself in the Utah House as a staunch archconservative and gun rights advocate.

He made national headlines when he got the Utah Legislature to name the 1917 Browning model .45 handgun the state gun.

Wimmer regularly carried a concealed weapon on his person while on the Capitol grounds and in the House Chambers.

His fiery floor and committee speeches were often lauded by conservatives and disliked by liberals.

He was known for his mustache. Some colleagues started calling his upper lip “The Wimmer,” as he could shave it off and grow it back within days.

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