Utah Republicans target Matheson with map; could lead to statewide run

On Tuesday, Matheson's spokeswoman said he had not yet decided which office to run for but that a decision was imminent.

"He continues to say he'll be on the ballot next year and will continue his public service," said Alyson Heyrand. "It's going to be in the near term for sure. I guess Gov. Herbert has to sign the bill before it's official, and I don't know what the timeline is on that, but it's going to probably be in the next, short term."

Matheson's threat to run for governor had caused Herbert to push legislative Republicans toward giving Matheson a winnable district. But after weeks of negotiations, Herbert lost out and the Legislature passed by a veto-proof supermajority a map that makes it very hard for Matheson to hold on to his district.

A Republican state senator said Matheson had been invited to give his input into drawing the maps, but had declined. "He's been totally hands-off on the whole process," said Utah state Sen. Stuart Reid. "He was asked to participate, give his views on where the lines would be drawn, and he didn't want anything to do with it."

Reid speculated that was because Matheson wanted to be able to claim victimhood if the maps went against him, although Matheson might not have played ball in case the Republicans decided to do the opposite of whatever he suggested.

Washington Democrats hope Matheson decides to take on Hatch, and on Monday circulated a month-old poll showing him within striking distance of the longtime incumbent. 

One obstacle: Matheson raised $164,000 in the last three months, a mediocre number for a House candidate and not one that would indicate he's preparing for a statewide run. Hatch, by comparison, raised $1.6 million last quarter. While Utah is an inexpensive state to campaign in, Matheson does decide to run statewide he'll need to dramatically increase his fundraising pace.

Hatch has been criticized by some on the right for his willingness to work across the aisle with Democrats, and while he dodged a bullet when Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) decided not to run against him in the primary, he could still face a tough Republican opponent at the state's nominating convention.

Even if Hatch is the nominee, the last few polls of the race show Matheson holding him under 50 percent and within striking range. But the Democrat could also challenge Herbert, another Republican who has held narrow leads over him polls.

This post was updated at 11:40 a.m.

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