Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) has decided to retire rather than worry about trying to distance himself from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other national Democrats in what was shaping up to be another contentious race with Mia Love, his 2012 Republican challenger.
“When I launched my first campaign in 1999, I knew that the arc of my public service would have many chapters. It has been a tremendous privilege to serve the people of Utah during my time in the United States House of Representatives, but my time in the House should not be the sum total of my service,” said Matheson, one of the few remaining Blue Dog Democrats, in a post on his Facebook page.
“Today, I am announcing that I will not seek reelection to the House of Representatives,” he said. “While at the end of 2014 my tenure in the House of Representatives will come to an end, my duty to our state and our country will undoubtedly continue.”
Some have already noted that Matheson could be setting up a run for higher office in 2016, either for governor or against Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who will be up for re-election. A defeat in 2014 would, obviously, be a blow to his credibility as a candidate, nevermind his terrible record on fiscal issues.
Matheson and Love had recently traded barbs. The Republican framed Matheson as a ‘squishy’ moderate and ineffective legislator, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, while the incumbent Democrat called Love an “extremist.”
Love, who currently serves as mayor of Saratoga Springs, became somewhat of a conservative rock-star in 2012. She gave a great speech at the Republican National Convention last August, during which she talked her upbringing and early sense of personal responsibility.
Despite a poll indicating that she was ahead by double-digits just days before voters went to the polls, Love lost to Matheson by 2,646 votes, or 1.2 points. Romney, who endorsed Love and cut an ad for her, carried the district with 68% of the vote.
Love announced in May that she would seek a rematch against Matheson. She will face Bob Fuehr, a businessman and former director of the Utah Division of Business and Economic Development, in the Republican primary. Love is thought to be the favorite.
Though UT-04 has a solid Republican base (R +16), political analysts had given Matheson the benefit of the doubt against Love. But his exit has already prompted The Rothenberg Political Report to change its rating of the seat to “Safe for Republicans.”