While most of the attention on the 2020 election is focused on the jockeying for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, the race for the seat currently held by 1st District Congressman Rob Bishop could have an unusually large field next year if he goes through with his previously announced plan to retire.
UtahPolicy.com spoke with several Republicans to get a sense what the GOP field in UT01 could look like next year with Bishop potentially leaving the seat he’s held since 2002. The list of possible candidates that emerged from those discussions includes several Republican Party veterans and several current office holders.
Former national Republican Party member Bruce Hough is the name that most often comes up when discussing possible Republican candidates in the First District. Hough, who is the co-founder of Neutraceutical has been reportedly laying the groundwork for a campaign since late 2018. Hough was one of two Utahns elected to a spot on the National Republican Party Committee for several years. Hough could not be reached for comment.
Rep. Logan Wilde, R-Croydon, is also reportedly considering a run for Congress. Wilde is in his second term in the Utah House and would have to give up his seat to run for Congress. Republican sources say Wilde’s interest in a run for the House may be more serious than not.
Sources say Scott Simpson, the President and CEO of the Utah Credit Union Association is seriously considering running for the open UT01 seat next year. Simpson is a former executive director of the Utah GOP.
Rep Stephen Handy, R-Layton says he's considering throwing his hat in the ring, but fundraising will be the biggest hurdle. "If you had a couple hundred thousand dollars of your own money to throw around, that would be great. This is going to be a $500,000 race, so that's a major consideration for me," he said.
Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, is also said to be mulling a run next year. Perry has been in the Utah Legislature since he won his first election in 2010.
Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, has been mentioned in connection with a congressional campaign next year. Ray first won election to the House in 2004.
A couple of Northern Utah mayors are said to be taking a hard look at running for Congress next year. Several Republicans say Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt is preparing to run for Congress next year. Witt was first elected as Mayor in 2018. Clearfield Mayor Mark Shepherd is also reportedly thinking about running, as is
Others reportedly considering a bid next year include Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson and Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton.
Some had mentioned former Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson as a potential candidate, but he recently accepted a position as the head of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
You can cross Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross off the list of possible candidates next year. Weiler has long been linked to a possible run for Congress, but he tells UtahPolicy.com he is not going to challenge for Bishop’s seat later this year.
House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Clearfield, told UtahPolicy.com during a recent interview he’s not going to run for Congress next year even though he’s frequently mentioned as a candidate.
House Majority Leader Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, has been suggested as a candidate for Congress, but he told UtahPolicy.com on Wednesday morning he was absolutely not interested in running. "I have no interest in running for Congressman Bishop's place in D.C. In what world would someone want to serve in that dysfunction?"
House Majority Whip Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, has also been suggested as a possible candidate, but he flatly denied any interest in running. “I still have young kids at home and being 1 of 435 does nothing for me,” said Schultz in a text message. Schultz has quickly become a power player on the Hill. He was appointed to the powerful House Rules Committee as a freshman, something that is usually unheard of in the legislature, and was elected to the majority caucus leadership team in his second term.
Several Republicans have suggested Sen. Ann Milner might be thinking about running, but she tells UtahPolicy.com she’s not interested.
On the Democratic side, former Black Diamond CEO Peter Metcalf is being mentioned as a possible challenger for Bishop's seat. Democratic sources say Metcalf may be hoping the fight for the Republican nomination will be so brutal for the winning candidate that he may be able to pull off the upset. That's not very likely. UT01 is rated as an R+26 district, meaning the partisan lean is 26-points more Republican than the national average.
(This article has been updated)