During John Swallow's announcement Thursday that he was making another run at the 2nd Congressional District seat, the name of another Republican kept coming up.

No, it wasn't his chief opponent for the GOP nomination, Tim Bridgewater. It was one of the nation's most revered presidents, Abraham Lincoln, who was born on Feb. 12, the day selected to announce Swallow's candidacy.

"Honest Abe was a trusted man and leader who had the courage of his convictions — someone who stood for what is right," Swallow said. "If elected to Congress, I, too, will do what is right."

That means standing up for "the Utah values we believe in," the Sandy businessman said, adding they are not values reflected in the voting record of two-term Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson. Despite his largely GOP district, Matheson voted with his party 75 percent of the time last year, he said.

While that's less often than the average House Democrat, it's still too much for Swallow.

"Jim does not stand with Utah," Swallow told the crowd of supporters who gathered on the steps of the state Capitol to cheer him on. "I will be with Utah 100 percent of the time, fighting for you with the courage of Abraham Lincoln."

The issues that he'd like to battle on Utah's behalf include creating more jobs by opening up public lands in the state to mining and other resource development, curbing the power of liberal federal judges and giving more control to states.

Time spent on his family's alfalfa farm near the Utah-Nevada border has helped him to understand land-use issues, Swallow said. He holds a law degree from Brigham Young University and co-founded a technology company in Salt Lake City.

Swallow said he's already raised $500,000, half of what he spent in his 2002 race. Then, he lost by less than 2,000 votes to Matheson, who has been targeted as one of the nation's most vulnerable Democrats.

The team assembled to run Swallow's campaign helped defeat two other Democratic members of Congress from Utah in recent years, Bill Orton and Karen Shepherd. Matheson is currently the only Democrat in Utah's congressional delegation.

Utah Senate President Al Mansell, R-Sandy, said the time is right for a Swallow victory.

"John is not giving up," Mansell said, citing the candidate's impressive fund-raising to date. "This is a race we can win this year. This is a race we should win." Swallow represented Sandy in the Utah House for six years.

Before Swallow can take on Matheson, however, he has to win his party's nomination. Swallow said Thursday he hopes to win at the Republican state convention so he can focus on the general election. Bridgewater, though, is already raising money for the race.

The tough and costly primary fight between Swallow and Bridgewater may well have cost the GOP the seat in 2002. Swallow was seen as weakened by the battle and had trouble raising money for the general election.

Political scientist and Brigham Young University professor David Magleby said the seat is one of the few in the House considered up for grabs. "By all accounts, all of the prognosticators have this as a pure toss-up," he said.

But even though recent redistricting has made his constituency even more Republican, Matheson is seen as a moderate Democrat who has courted the business community. "Mr. Swallow will not get this in a cakewalk," Magleby said.

Democrats know Swallow will be a formidable contender. "It'll be a competitive race, no question," state Democratic party chairman Donald Dunn said, adding that the narrow margin of victory two years ago means Matheson will have "to work very hard."

The Republican nominee will have the advantage of having his name appear below President Bush's on the ballot, a big boost in a state expected to overwhelmingly support the president's re-election.

Swallow made it clear Thursday that he won't always support the president's policies. For example, he said he opposes the administration's "No Child Left Behind" mandate for public schools as unwarranted federal control. Brad Pelo, his friend and business partner, said at the announcement Thursday that Swallow is "at his core, as a man of principal" who will not bend under pressure from special interests.

Pelo said Swallow's loss in November 2002 was not a defeat. "To those of us who knew the odds, it was actually a big win. It was a win because John faced a Democratic incumbent who was well-financed by his national party, who was well-financed by liberal PACs."

Swallow, to a great degree, did not have his national party's support because GOP leaders believed he'd lose by some 7 percent, Pelo said. Swallow came within .5 percent of winning, in part because he was not as well known as the incumbent.

"We will not make that same mistake again," Pelo said.

Swallow can count on more help from outside Utah this time around, Magleby said, predicting he'll outspend Matheson. The race should also attract coverage from some of the nation's top newspapers.

"This will be one of the top 10 by everyone's account means it will get a lot of national attention," he said. "We'll have the New York Times, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal all in here before we're through."


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