Did Jim Matheson Tip His Hand About 2016?

Rep. Jim Matheson said something during his benedictory address to the Utah State Legislature that seemed a bit…foreshadowey.


When speaking to the Senate, Matheson dropped an innocent sounding line that may have tipped his hand about future political plans.

While bemoaning the lack of cooperation in Washington, D.C. due to partisanship, Mathson said “As I conclude this phase of my service, I have learned that a representative government only functions when we come together.”

“This phase” of his service? (emphasis mine)

Matheson is retiring from Congress at the end of the year, so it’s a little curious that he used that particular phraseology. It brings to mind three possibilities – either he’s planning on going on an LDS mission, joining the Peace Corps, or he’s going to run for another office in 2016.

Since Matheson announced he would not run for another term at the end of last year, Utah political tongues have been wagging with speculation about Matheson’s political future. It’s long been assumed he would run for statewide office – either Governor or U.S. Senate in 2016.

Makes sense that he would be considering those offices. He is consistently ranked as one of the most popular politicians in Utah. A recent Dan Jones poll pegged him with a 65% approval rating in Utah, which is just behind Gary Herbert’s 73% mark.

He also would have the money to mount a statewide race. His latest campaign filing shows nearly $750,000 cash on hand. That money could be used to fund a Senate race in 2016 or diverted into a state account for a gubernatorial run.

Whatever he decides, it will be a tough hill to climb. Utah Democrats have lost 27 straight statewide elections since Jan Graham was elected Attorney General in 1996. That streak is likely to grow this year as Sean Reyes (or some other Republican) is the odds-on favorite to win the Attorney General special election in 2014. If Matheson decides to jump into the ring two years from now, he will be trying to snuff out two decades of futility for Utah’s minority party.

Matheson has played coy about his political future until this point – declining to elaborate by saying he will leave those decisions for another day.

It sounds like he’s already looking ahead and, with one sentence, he may have tipped his hand.