SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah will not run for an eighth term in Congress next year, the congressman announced Tuesday.
Matheson was expected to face a tough repeat challenge in 2014 from Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, a Republican who he narrowly defeated in 2012.
Matheson announced the news in a Facebook posting and subsequent statement from his office Tuesday afternoon.
“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,” he said in the statement.
The 53-year-old represents Utah’s 4th congressional seat, which covers a string of Salt Lake City suburbs stretching south along the Wasatch Front to Sanpete County.
Matheson is the only Democratic member of Utah’s congressional delegation.
The 53-year-old first ran for Congress in 1999 and has managed to hold onto the seat for 14 years in a state where Republicans dominate politics and hold most elected offices.
During his seven terms in Congress, Matheson has staked himself out as a member of the fiscally conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats.
He is the son of popular former Utah Gov. Scott Matheson, the state’s last Democratic governor, who served in 1985.
The rematch between Matheson and Love was expected to be the state’s most competitive contest in 2014. Their 2012 battle was the most expensive in Utah history, with both candidates and outside political groups spending a combined $11.2 million.
Six months after her loss, Love announced she was giving it another shot.
Her fundraising has outpaced Matheson’s in recent months, according to her most recent campaign reports filed in October.
She brought in more than $590,000 from July through September, while Matheson collected only $278,000.
But Love has also been spending fiercely, shelling out more than $376,000 in that same three-month period.
Matheson, on the other hand, spent just over $60,000.
Love released a statement Tuesday afternoon wishing Matheson well.
“Congressman Matheson has served our state with passion and has been a dedicated public servant during his tenure in Congress,” Love said. “His announcement today does not change my campaign to represent the people of Utah’s 4th congressional district. I wish Congressman Matheson the very best during his final year as Congressman.”
If Love wins next year, the 38-year-old would be the first black, female Republican elected to Congress.
One member of Utah’s Republican delegation, U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, was quick to release a statement Tuesday praising Matheson’s service.
“While we didn’t agree on everything, you always knew that Jim was doing what he sincerely felt was best for our state,” he said.
Hatch, who was re-elected to a seventh term last year, has said he will not run again in 2018.
Matheson’s announcement via <a href=”https://www.facebook.com/RepJimMatheson/posts/632391713466651″ target=”_blank”>Facebook</a> can be read below:
<em>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. Today, I am announcing that I will not seek reelection to the House of Representatives.</em>
<em>Public service has been integral to my life for as long as I can remember. I was raised to value the honor in public service and the responsibility of holding the public trust. My time in Congress has only strengthened these beliefs.</em>
<em>I take the role of representative seriously and intend to conclude this chapter of my service to our state in the same way I have always approached my job. You can count on me to work hard, to solve problems, to achieve progress and to put Utah first. 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.</em>
<em>There are many people who have shared this incredible journey who have my respect and gratitude. I want to thank the people from every corner of our state who placed their trust in my stewardship. It has been a great honor to serve as your representative. I also want to thank my staff for their commitment, loyalty, and hard work. Finally, I want to thank my wife Amy and my sons Will and Harris for their love, support and shared belief in the importance of service.</em>
Associated Press writer Brady McCombs contributed to this report.