Rep. Jim Matheson (D)
Elected: 2000, 5th term.
Born: March 21, 1960, Salt Lake City .
Home: Salt Lake City.
Education: Harvard U., B.A. 1982, U.C.L.A., M.B.A. 1987.
Family: Married (Amy); 2 children.
Professional Career: Staff, Environmental Policy Inst., 1982-85; Project dev. mgr., Bonneville Pacific, 1987-91; Sr. assoc., Energy Strategies Inc., 1992-98; Founder & pres., The Matheson Group, 1998-99.
The congressman from the 2nd District is Jim Matheson, a Democrat first elected in 2000. Matheson grew up in Salt Lake City, graduated from Harvard University and interned on Capitol Hill for Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill. His father, Scott Matheson, was elected governor of Utah in 1976 and 1980. Jim Matheson worked for the Environmental Policy Institute and then earned an M.B.A. from the University of California at Los Angeles. He returned to Salt Lake City to join Bonneville Pacific, an energy development company, where he was a project development manager. He moved in 1992 to Energy Strategies, a consulting firm, where he was a senior associate. He served four years on the Salt Lake Public Utilities Board. In 1998, he started the Matheson Group to help businesses adapt to electricity deregulation, but he closed it a year later to run for the U.S. House in a district with turbulent politics. From 1992 to 2000, it elected two Democrats and two Republicans to Congress. In the 2000 Republican primary election, aides had to intervene to stop a fist fight between Republicans Merrill Cook, the incumbent and businessman Derek Smith. Smith won the primary and then ran against Matheson, who played down his party affiliation and criticized Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore’s prescription drug plan. Smith denounced Clinton’s creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and charged that Matheson was trying to look like a Republican. Matheson was vastly outspent by Smith, but still won 56%-41%.
|Jim Matheson (D)||220,666||(63%)||($1,389,004)|
|Bill Dew (R)||120,083||(34%)||($632,101)|
|Jim Matheson (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (59%), 2004 (55%), 2002 (49%), 2000 (56%)
In the House, Matheson has a voting record that is among the most conservative of Democrats, and he has crossed party lines on many issues. He has been a leader of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats. He supported the Bush administration’s 2001 tax cuts, the use of force in Iraq in 2002, and was one of 16 Democrats who voted for the GOP’s Medicare prescription drug bill in 2003. But he voted against a constitutional amendment on flag burning, oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and making the Bush tax cuts permanent.
During the 110th Congress (2007-08), he was the only member of Utah’s congressional delegation to co-sponsor a bill to give the Nuclear Regulatory Commission authority to prevent foreign nuclear waste from being brought into the United States. The bill had direct implications for Utah. At the time, the Salt Lake City-based company EnergySolutions, formerly known as Envirocare, was seeking a license to import nuclear waste from Italy, which Matheson opposes. He reintroduced the legislation in 2009. Matheson also opposed the detonation of a 700-ton weapon at the Nevada Test Site. Though the explosive was non-nuclear, it would have created a mushroom cloud and possibly have stirred up radioactive particles in the area. The test was canceled. In the past, Matheson has called for mandatory environmental reviews before resumption of nuclear weapons testing in Nevada. Matheson’s father died of cancer as the result of radioactive fallout from nuclear tests.
Over the years, Matheson has been a prime Republican target. In 2002, John Swallow, a three-term state legislator, emphasized his strong support for tax cuts and gun ownership rights, and reminded voters of Matheson’s Democratic Party affiliation at every opportunity. Matheson reminded rural voters of his family’s local connections and said that Swallow would harm public schools by giving tax money to parents to send their kids to private schools (the 2nd District has the lowest private school enrollment in the nation). Both national parties spent lavishly. Matheson won by 1,641 votes, 49.4%-48.7%, the narrowest victory for any House incumbent that year. Swallow won most of the rural counties by huge margins but lost 59%-39% in Salt Lake County, which cast 60% of the vote. In 2004, Swallow ran again and had support from the deep-pocketed anti-tax group Club for Growth. The House Republican campaign committee also spent nearly $1 million on the contest. Still, Matheson won 55%-43%. In 2006, he raised nearly $2 million and won against state Rep. LaVar Christensen, 59%-37%. Conventional wisdom says he cannot rest in this district, but Matheson’s grip on the seat seems to grow stronger with time. He had his best winning percentage to date in 2008, 63% of the vote.
Matheson turned down calls that he run against Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah in 2006. Eager for him to stay in the House, Democratic leaders in 2007 gave him a seat on the influential Energy and Commerce Committee. His brother, Scott Matheson, ran for governor in 2004 and lost to Republican Jon Huntsman.