Rep. Rob Bishop, the top Republican on the Natural Resources Committee, has decided against a 2020 run for Utah governor, he announced today.
The nine-term congressman, who is not running for House reelection in 2020, revealed his decision onKSL NewsRadioafter mulling a bid for the past several months.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R), who has served since 2009, is retiring at the end of his current term. Bishop endorsed former GOP Chairman Thomas Wright.
"I see someone who has fresh eyes that will be brought to the system," Bishop said of Wright, adding that he was "amazed" at how well Wright "brought different people together" during his tenure as state Republican chairman. Bishop is also a former chairman of the Utah GOP.
The congressman broke the news this afternoon in an interview with his former communications director Lee Lonsberry, now hosting a news show on the radio station.
Lonsberry said he'd predicted his former boss would end up running for Utah governor. "So much for your extrasensory perception," Bishop quipped.
The Republican lawmaker said an important factor in his decision was seeing whether "his kind of conservative" entered the race — a candidate who works toward pragmatic solutions based on conservative principles.
"In this period of time, everyone in Utah is going to claim to be a conservative," said Bishop this afternoon.
Bishop has said he will not leave Congress before the end of 2020. The former schoolteacher told Lonsberry he wasn't sure what his next role would be but at this point he looked forward to a return to teaching after Congress.
Still, Bishop didn't rule out a play for lieutenant governor in 2020, if offered the slot. "That's not my decision," Bishop told Lonsberry. But the congressman said he'd think about it if asked.
Bishop's decision means he won't be joining an already crowded GOP gubernatorial field that includes Wright; Jon Huntsman Jr., former governor and U.S. ambassador to China and Russia; current Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox; businessman Jeff Burningham; Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton; and former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes.
"I like them all; most of them have been in my home," Bishop said of the candidates.
It's a safe bet that for the rest of 2020, Bishop will focus on getting his bipartisan "Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act,"H.R. 1225, across the finish line.
For the last year or so, the Utahn has pushed for a vote on the legislation to create a $6.5 billion restoration fund to tackle the growing deferred maintenance backlog in national parks and on public lands. ROPA has 329 co-sponsors in the House. A similar bill is circulating in the Senate.
Bishop said previously that an important factor in his decision was determining whether he can offer something valuable to the state as its chief executive. Bishop went through a similar process this past summer when he considered whether to run for a 10th congressional term.
The Utahn in September acknowledged to E&E News that he was "not really ready to quit" Congress but believed he is "at the apex of my value to Utah" as a lawmaker. He reiterated that sentiment today during the KSL interview.