By LINDSAY PALMER
A third Republican will announce his candidacy for Utah’s 2nd congressional district race against Rep. Merrill Cook on Wednesday, Feb. 16.
Jeff Wright, a Salt Lake venture capitalist, said he is running because he does not think that Merrill Cook will keep his seat after two terms in Congress.
“I think that Matheson could beat Cook, and I want to make sure that the Republicans retain the seat,” Wright said, referring to the sole Democratic candidate, Jim Matheson.
Rep. Cook disagreed. He said he is the only candidate who can win the race against a tough Democratic challenger.
“I’ve done a good job in Congress,” Cook said. “I really represent people’s views on taxation.”
Cook said that other Republican candidates couldn’t get the independent vote, and that is what would beat them.
“I capture the spirit and enthusiasm of the independents,” Cook said.
Cook said he believes he is facing strong Republican opposition for one reason.
“A lot of it has to do with the best kept secret in politics, and that is the Democratic playbook,” Cook said. “That is where all of the bad press and the political opposition has come from.”
Cook said the negative media coverage in the last year is not due to anything real that has happened.
“What’s real and what’s true is my record,” Cook said. “And anybody who looks at it will know that.”
Wright said he is running against Cook because Washington needs fresh faces, and he wants to make this congressional race one about issues, ideas and political philosophies.
Wright discussed some of those issues, including education, tax reform, and the national debt. He said that one of the first changes needed in education is to give federal money back to the states.
“Local decisions about education are better,” Wright said. “Washington doesn’t need the money — it needs to be put into the classrooms.”
Wright also said there needs to be heavy reform of the IRS and a move toward a flatter and fairer tax system.
“The average American doesn’t understand a thing about taxes,” Wright said.
The two major tax reform proposals include a flat tax and a national sales tax, Wright said. He said if there was a national sales tax, people would no longer have to file taxes.
Wright said that if there is a Republican congress with a Republican president, new tax reforms will pass.
“It certainly won’t happen overnight, but it will happen,” Wright said.
Paying down the national debt and using any surpluses wisely are also necessary, Wright said. He said that the government has to focus on cutting costs, and not just enacting new spending programs.
Wright said he has spoken with over 450 Republican delegates in Utah over the past year, and hopes to raise enough support to win the Republican nomination.
“I’m excited about this race — it’s winnable,” Wright said. “I want to bring a good, positive Republican message to the 2nd district, and go back to Washington and affect change.”
Morgan Philpot, an area businessman who announced his candidacy last week, said he is running because it is time for someone new.
“That’s the general consensus among people in the 2nd district,” Philpot said. “You talk to anyone and you get the same response. I don’t think people feel that Merrill Cook is doing a job that is satisfactory.”
Philpot said he realized that the four congressional Republican candidates have some of the same views.
“But I think we differ on how those views should be accomplished,” he said.
Philpot outlined his goals to change politics in Utah.
“We need to get big money and special interests out of politics,” he said. “Average people can’t afford to compete with it, and they’re losing their voice in Congress.”