SALT LAKE CITY — Morgan Philpot said Thursday he's running for governor because Utah needs a leader willing stand up to the federal government, even if that means pushing the bounds of what's legal.
"Am I going to go to jail if I do? I mean, if that's what it's going to take, does the federal government need to come down and throw some handcuffs on the governor of Utah," he said to the applause of supporters gathered at the Capitol.
Philpot said he respects Gov. Gary Herbert, a fellow Republican, but "the time for ribbon-cutting politics as usual governance is over." He said Herbert would be a great governor in the 1990s, when times were good, but "things have gone crazy."
Now, he said, the state must reject President Barack Obama's federal health care plan as well as other "European-style, socialist" programs. "That is not the role of the federal government. But it is the role of the governor to risk his political reputation to stop them."
Philpot narrowly lost the 2nd Congressional District seat in 2010 to the state's only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Jim Matheson. He is the second Republican to challenge Herbert's bid for re-election in 2012.
Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork, who has been in the race since last month, attended Philpot's announcement and said he agrees with many of his stands, especially on public lands.
He said any action Utah takes to defy the federal government must be done through the courts with the support of other states. "If Utah is the only one that does it, we're going to get squished like a bug," Sumsion said.
And he called a governor putting himself in a position to be arrested by federal authorities "a step of last resort, absolutely a step of last resort, because if we're at that point as a nation, we're going to look like Greece, which has rioting in the streets."
Herbert's campaign issued a statement Wednesday when Philpot confirmed he was running for governor, saying Herbert "is providing exactly the kind of leadership that is critical to Utah's steady economic recovery and private sector jobs expansion."
Philpot said he considered another run for Congress, but decided "more good can be done now from the states than can ever be done in Washington, D.C., with how broken that system is," labeling the nation's capital "a pit of vipers."
He stressed, though, he would not want the state to turn away all federal funding. "I'm not going to tackle every single issue that every single person might believe is appropriate," Philpot said, suggesting there might be room for compromise with the federal government on some issues, such as Medicaid funding.
"It doesn't all have to be confrontational politics," he said.
But Philpot said there are actions the state should take against the federal government, including attempting to nullify the federal health care plan and exercising eminent domain over public lands.
"There are a lot of things we can do," he said. "But it takes some courage and it takes stepping out of the box as governor to push those things forward."