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Former Salt Lake County Commissioner Jim Bradley, a Democrat, stepped up Monday afternoon and became his party's candidate for governor.

But he seemed a bit embarrassed doing it, blinking in TV lights, speaking softly and joking with reporters that he is a serious candidate.It is the second time in four years that Democratic Party leaders had to wait until the last candidate filing day to find a candidate for a major race. In 1994, Democrats didn't have a candidate to face GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch until local attorney Pat Shea agreed to run and walked into the Lieutenant Governor's Office the final filing day.

Bradley now faces the popular incumbent, Gov. Mike Leavitt, whose job approval rating runs between 80-90 percent and has millions of dollars in his campaign fund. Bradley hopes his race turns out different than Shea's 1994 contest - Hatch blasted Shea 69 percent to 28 percent.

"But I believed it would be a tragedy not to have a Democratic candidate (in the governor's race) this year," Bradley, 49, said moments after filing Monday afternoon.

Mike Zuhl, state Democratic Party chairman, seemed relieved as Bradley filed. "Actually, Jim was the first guy I called when I started recruiting (for the governor's race) way last November. He never really said `no,' although he kind of said no several times. I kept calling." Zuhl admitted that Bradley only said `yes' Monday morning. If Bradley hadn't agreed, it was likely the Democrats wouldn't have had a candidate in the race, Zuhl said.

Byron Marchant, an often-run Democratic candidate, has filed. But he isn't considered a serious contender, said Zuhl, and if Marchant were the only candidate to file under the Democratic banner, it would be likely that party leaders would have moved in the May state convention that Marchant be denied the nomination and that no Democrat be listed in the governor's race on the November ballot.

Bradley is no newcomer to politics. He ran (and lost) a 1988 race for the Salt Lake County Commission to then-commission chairman Mike Stewart, 52-48 percent. He came back two years later and beat incumbent GOP commissioner Bart Barker, 59-41 percent.

Bradley, then commission chairman, stood for re-election in 1994 but was swept aside in the GOP local and national landslide that year by a relatively-unknown Republican, Mary Callaghan. He lead in the pre-election polls, but fell 53-47 percent on election day.

Bradley's political mentor was the late Gov. Scott M. Matheson. Bradley was a Matheson administration insider who ran the old state Energy Office until Matheson left state government in 1984. Bradley then became a consultant specializing in energy development, a business he returned to after his 1994 defeat.

Asked by a local reporter this past December if he would run against Leavitt this year, Bradley joked, "Hey, I'm not crazy."

He reiterated Monday that he isn't crazy, but felt that Leavitt needed to be challenged. "I've won one election, lost a few. I know what I'm doing. I'm not some guy off the street," Bradley said.

Since his defeat in 1994, Bradley has been doing a little consulting, helping out his wife, Glenda, in her business, The Framery, in Salt Lake City. Recognizing that the problems of Rep. Enid Greene Wald-holtz, R-Utah, and family money will raise campaign financing questions for all candidates this year, Bradley said he will not be asking for, nor accepting, any funds from his wife's family in his governor's race. His wife's family is independently wealthy. "I've never tapped them for campaign money, and I won't in this race, either," said Bradley. He hopes to raise around $500,000. "That will be difficult, and pale compared to what Leavitt can, and may, raise and spend. But you need about half a million dollars to run an adequate statewide race," Bradley said.

Known for his self-depreciating sense of humor, Bradley said he hoped that early polls taken in the governor's race "will show me well behind, that way I can only build and close the race.

"Seriously though, there are issues in this race that need to be discussed. I think that Mike, with his huge popularity, has forfeited a real opportunity to lead - faced with a problem he always seems to hesitate, appoint a committee and put off a decision. A democracy depends on open debate, and the best place for that to happen is in a political campaign. I couldn't let this race go by with no debate," said Bradley.