Rep. Carl Wimmer has gone from being an ex-cop and part-time deck-builder and landscaper to now being just a few steps away from a new U.S. congressman.
At 35, the political deck seems stacked in Wimmer’s favor – but it hasn’t all been an easy road. And if Wimmer, R-Herriman, runs and wins in the new 4thCongressional District next year, it would be more than just being in the right place at the right time.
He’s clearly adding to his political conservative foundation through the bills he’s sponsoring this Legislature – with an eye toward the conservative delegates and primary voters he may face in 2012.
Wimmer, always known as a fiscally conservative, enforce-the-law, gun-rights kind of guy, has introduced 20 bills this 2011 session, four of them resolutions that could have long-term affects on Utah and national government.
And he’s trying – his detractors may say struggling – to step out of some of his more conservative elements to show that he’s an articulate spokesman and worker for the causes in which he believes.
“Almost everything I do comes back to individual liberty and state sovereignty,” says Wimmer, a barrel-chested man who at one time held a nation weight-lifting record for the bench press.
“That’s why I founded the Patrick Henry Caucus, which has members across this nation,” he said.
You can read a list and link to Wimmer’s bills here.
He’s formed what’s legally called an exploratory committee, and as such has been raising money for a possible run for the U.S. House in 2012.
Utah gets a new, fourth House seat then, and there’s much speculation that the 4th District could take in the southwestern part of Salt Lake County – where Wimmer lives with wife, Sherry, and three children – run down the western side of the state to include the growing areas of Washington and Iron counties.
In Santa Clara sits former Utah House Speaker Dave Clark, who is also eying a run for Congress in 2012. (UtahPolicy will speak with Clark about his legislative agenda this session and possible Congressional run in a following story.)
Wimmer acknowledges that he’s had his critics over so-called “message” bills since he came to the Utah House in 2007.
But he proudly points to last year’s HB67, a bill that would allow Utah to opt out of what he terms “Obamacare” and go it alone in providing reasonably-priced health care to residents.
(There’s a bit of an irony here, since Clark, before, during and now after being speaker, has worked in the trenches to come up with a viable health care option for Utah businesses and individuals.)
“In ruling that Obamacare is unconstitutional, a Florida federal judge cited in his opinion my bill, HB67, as saying states have standing against the president’s national insurance plan,” said Wimmer. “States can fight back, push back, against the federal government and its programs and win – and I was criticized for running HB67 with people saying it was just a message bill, a worthless bill that wouldn’t do anything.
“Well, it turns out it certainly has done something.”
Wimmer, along with a few other conservative Utah legislators, are now chomping at the bit, willing and able to take on the federal government on other states’ rights issues.
There’s a whole list of such bills in the 2011 Legislature, some which could come with heafty litigation price tags.
And Wimmer says while state budgets are tight this year, and taxpayer dollars must be used wisely, he still believes fighting the good fight in pro-life areas and states’ rights is money “well invested.”
He has two or three anti-abortion bills now filed. “Almost every year I’ve had one or two anti-abortion, pro-life bills.” Some may seem like baby steps – like his HB171 that would require a special abortion clinic license with twice-yearly inspections paid for by the clinic itself.
Others may be far more reaching, like a new anti-aborton conscience bill, HB353, which appears to give medical personnel and providers, like hospitals, an out in providing abortions, or even having to decide whether to save the life of the mother or the child in an emergency situation.
While saying he decided not to sponsor any tough anti-illegal immigration bills this session (“others are running those bills”), Wimmer still has HB191, which would end the sometimes controversial “state subsidy” of providing instate tuition for illegal immigrant children who graduated from a Utah high school and wish to attend a public college or university here.
Not many kids take advantage of that instate tuition – maybe 200 or so – say state college presidents. But it’s time to get tough on all abuses by illegal immigrants, says Wimmer.
Wimmer sponsored HB219 which names the Browning M1911 as the official state handgun – this being the 100th anniversary of Ogden’s Browning Firearms Co. production of the .45 automatic, which is still used by some U.S. military units as the sidearm of choice.
HB219 is just one example of where Wimmer is willing to step into the media-critical spotlight.
As Wimmer has advocated this or that conservative ideal he’s found some – OK, maybe a lot – of criticism along the way.
He doesn’t resent it, once telling UtahPolicy that just getting his name out there in the public ultimately is a good thing.
“I think some of the strong stances I’ve taken – and now with my name out there with my testing the waters (Congressional campaign) committee, I think everything I say is up for public scrutiny. And I accept that.”
He says he’s proud of the “very favorable” support he’s already received in early fundraising for a possible U.S. House bid next year. “We’ve had over 150 individual contributions. I have some great people working with me.”
He declines to name all on his exploratory committee, but says so far those who don’t mind being publicly listed include Candace Salima, a Tea Party leader; Becky Pirente, a 9-12 and Tea Party member; and Larry Jensen and Darcy Van Orden of Utah Rising, another conservative, states’ rights group.
“We have time” after the general session to decide on whether to formally run for Congress. Wimmer says he wants to see the four-seat U.S. House boundaries that the Legislature will adopt later this year.
Wimmer said he originally asked new Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, to name him to the Legislature’s Redistricting Committee, but has since changed his mind.
“I’ve asked her not to consider me. I think it would be a conflict of interest to be on that redistricting committee; a conflict the people just would not accept.”
(Clark has also asked Lockhart to be on that redistrict committee, saying whether he runs for the 4th seat or not he doesn’t want the people of southern Utah left out of the process – not have an advocate – on the committee, as he feels they have been in past redistricting efforts.)
Meanwhile, Wimmer will be working hard during the 45-day general session on bills and resolutions he believes are critical to Utahns.
And, many of those issues may well stand him in good stead with any conservative 4th District delegates picked next year in March 2012 neighborhood Republican Party caucuses.
In fact, some of the issues addressed in Wimmer’s legislation this year could be a list of conservative causes that GOP delegates may well love.
The include: pro-life/anti-abortion, fighting the federal government, repealing federal income tax authority, requiring a supermajority of two-thirds votes before the Legislature or local governments could raise taxes, changing the state spending limitation, strengthening 2nd Amendment gun rights, and wilderness designation.
Wimmer has such a full slate of conservative bills this session that he runs the danger of having some left behind because of bill-drafting crunches. (See accompany UtahPolicy story.)
“I don’t know if I can get some of these bills drafted in time to give a decent chance of passage. It’s too bad,” said Wimmer on Tuesday. “Many of us don’t know what to do” about the backlog of introduced, but unwritten bills.
A list of Wimmer bills still waiting for legislative attorneys to draft the language include (as of Tuesday): HB129, Firearm Modifications; HB304, Campaign Finance Revisions; HB312, Sale of Gold; HB332, Utility Payment Assistance; HB347, Wilderness Designation; HB382, Statewide Health Insurance Risk changes; HB383, Law Enforcement Officer Investigations; HB402, County Attorney Conflicts of Interest; HCR6, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force changes; HJR37, State Spending Limitations changes.
One Wimmer bill, HJR1, has failed to get out of committee. The resolution would change the Utah Constitution to require a supermajority vote of two-thirds of the Legislature or local government governing bodies before a tax or fee could be increased.
It failed in the House’s Tax and Revenue Committee in a 7-7 tie several weeks ago. But it could be brought back for a revote later; two Republican committee members, Reps. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, and Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, were absent.
And while too much should never be read into “no” votes on a bill sponsored by a bygone political foe, it may be of some interest to note that Clark voted against HJR1 in committee, as did Rep. Mel Brown, R-Kamas. In the 2010 elections Wimmer supported a Tea Party-type candidate who challenged Brown within the Republican Party – with Brown beating back the challenger from his right in a GOP primary.
Wimmer today is vice president of Corporate Task Group, which he says is an all-around security/law enforcement-training firm. He says the group has clients, but none of which current have issues before the Legislature. A new client is Swanson Tactical Training out of Ogden. “We have the sole contract to train folks attending classes in their new, $12 million facility up there,” said Wimmer.
But there will be no “black ops” or “water boarding” training at Swanson. “Although considering some of the folks around here (in and around the Legislature), well. . . no, I’m just kidding.”