Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah, one of the few remaining fiscally conservative Blue Dogs, said Tuesday he will retire from Congress and not seek an eighth term.
Republicans have long targeted Matheson for defeat, and already have recruited Mia Love to run in the district based in Salt Lake City’s suburbs. Republican Mitt Romney won Utah’s 4th Congressional District last year by 38 percentage points.
Matheson, first elected in 2000, said in a post on Facebook that he will continue with public service in some way.
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“When I launched my first campaign in 1999, I knew that the arc of my public service would have many chapters,” he said. “It has been a tremendous privilege to serve the people of Utah in the U.S. House of Representatives, but my time in the House should not be the sum total of my service.”
Before he announced his retirement, Matheson was viewed as one of the most vulnerable House Democrats up for re-election in 2014. Democrats need a net gain of 17 seats in next year’s elections to win majority control of the House.
The retirements of Matheson and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., shake up the 2014 elections and give each party an opportunity to win a seat long held by the other.
Matheson defeated Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, by 768 votes last year, according to the state’s 2012 election canvassing report. Love, who is vying to become the first black Republican woman in Congress, is considered a rising GOP star and a popular speaker at events such as the Conservative Political Action Conference.
The only Democrat in Utah’s congressional delegation, Matheson is from a well-known political family. His father, Scott, is a former Utah governor.
Jim Matheson is also a former co-chairman of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of Democrats that tries to push the party to the center on fiscal issues. The group’s ranks have dwindled in recent years as members have lost re-election, retired or sought other offices.
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