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Another Republican challenging Rep. Ben McAdams? Thom Carter says national GOP groups want him to run

‘This is a competitive seat, but only if we have the right candidate,’ he says

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Thom Carter, executive director of the Utah Clean Air Partnership, speaks at a press conference reintroducing Utah Transit Authority’s route 500 Capitol Connector at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. Carter, a Republican, is considering a run for the 4th Congressional District seat held by Utah’s only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Thom Carter, a Republican considering a run for the 4th Congressional District seat held by Utah’s only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams, said Tuesday he’s being encouraged to get in the race by the national party.

He’ll decide by the end of next week, he said, whether to join a GOP field that includes state Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan; former NFL player Burgess Owens; former KSL Newsradio host Jay Mcfarland; former Utah GOP communications adviser Kathleen Anderson; and nurse practitioner Chris Biesinger.

“Since having the first conversation with the party right before Christmas we have been looking seriously at the run. We agree with the RNC and the NRCC that this is a competitive seat, but only if we have the right candidate,” said Carter, executive director of the Utah Clean Air Partnership.

Neither the Republican National Committee nor the National Republican Congressional Committee confirmed they have reached out to Carter. Torunn Sinclair, a spokeswoman for the congressional committee, said, “the NRCC does not comment on people we may or may not have met with.”

The only Utah candidate recognized so far by the NRCC as competitive, state Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, dropped out of the race in mid-December. Hemmert was among around 70 congressional candidates nationwide named to the first level NRCC’s “Young Guns” program that provides campaign assistance.

Republican Mia Love, who held the 4th District seat for two terms before losing to McAdams in 2018, said last month that with Hemmert out of the race, she once again is toying with a run. Now a CNN commentator, Love said she wasn’t sure any of the remaining candidates could beat McAdams, but suggested more Republicans may run.

Chris Karpowitz, co-director of BYU’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy and a Carter family friend, said the national GOP’s interest in Carter suggests it has concerns about anyone in the race being the right candidate to take on McAdams.

“Where the race is won or lost in the 4th District, is with the moderate Republicans and the independents. If there’s a moderate Republican who could peel off some of those voters who might otherwise be attracted to Ben McAdams, then that could be compelling to the RNC,” Karpowitz said.

The political science professor said Carter’s biggest challenge would be name recognition, but his work with an environmental group “is potentially really interesting as a background for a political run. Voters in Utah care a lot about air quality,” an issue typically associated with Democrats.

Raising enough money at this point in a race that’s expected to cost millions is also an issue. McAdams already has close to $2 million and Hemmert had more than $400,000, including a personal loan, when he left the race, citing concerns about his dry cleaning business.

Coleman, who has said she expects to be named to the “Young Guns” program, touted her fundraising and recent endorsement by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a founder of Congress’ conservative Freedom Caucus, when asked about Carter.

“We don’t worry about things we can’t control. Who’s in and who’s out of this race makes no difference to our campaign. We’ve just kept working hard and we feel great about our progress. I know the hard work that has gone into raising over $200,000, putting together an active network of hundreds of volunteers, and winning the endorsement of strong conservatives like Congressman Jim Jordan,” Coleman said.

Anderson said “we are in close communication with the NRCC about this race and are very confident in our campaign’s ability to win the primary and defeat Ben McAdams in November.”

Owens said he’s “focused on getting to know the voters of the 4th District and learning how I can best serve them as their representative. The voters are what matters most.” Mcfarland said he had no comment about the possibility of facing another candidate for the GOP nomination.

McAdams’ campaign manager, Andrew Roberts, had little to say about the state of the race. The congressman has already been targeted by President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign and other Republican groups over his support for the House impeachment of the president.

“Rep. McAdams is focused on doing the job Utahns sent him to Congress to do, not next November’s election,” he said. “Utahns appreciate his efforts to hold Washington accountable for its out-of-control spending, as well as his hard work on bipartisan bills recently passed by the House to bring down out-of-control prescription drug costs.”

Carter, who was born in Utah but grew up largely outside the state, said he and his wife are trying to decide if the timing of a campaign is right for them and their new baby. He has said he has “soft” commitments of about $150,000 if he chooses to run.

“Through my full-time job, I spend every day focused on some of the issues most important to the people of this district: air quality, growth, transportation and infrastructure. I have always felt a pull toward public service and I enjoyed the time I spent earlier in my career as an elected official,” on a New Jersey city council, Carter said.