Utah's Matheson may get Dem rival over health vote

AP News
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Posted: Nov 09, 2009 4:42 PM

A Democratic state lawmaker said Monday he may run against U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson because of his vote against health care legislation.

State Sen. Scott McCoy of Salt Lake City said he and other Democratic activists are disappointed and frustrated with Matheson for joining with Republicans in opposing the $1.2 trillion, 10-year measure that would expand coverage to millions of uninsured.

In a posting on his Facebook page, McCoy wondered publicly, "So is it time for me to form an exploratory 'McCoy for Congress' committee given Jim Matheson's vote against the healthcare reform bill?"

That drew scores of comments in support of the idea, although McCoy said it is much too early to decide if he'll enter the race.

Matheson is seeking a sixth term in 2010 and no Democrats or Republicans have filed to run against him.

He said he voted against the bill because it is too expensive.

In a statement issued Friday, one day before the House approved the measure on a 220-215 vote, Matheson said passing health care reform is a moral and fiscal necessity. However, "a one-size-fits all nationally-run plan that doesn't acknowledge the different health demographics in the states isn't the answer," he said.

Matheson could not be reached immediately for comment Monday.

The measure he opposed would create a federally regulated marketplace where consumers could shop for insurance coverage. The bill would also provide federal subsidies to those who otherwise could not afford insurance and ban industry practices such as denying coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions.

McCoy's comments are a rare public rebuke of the state's leading Democrat by a member of his own party.

McCoy is one of the most liberal members of the Legislature and the only openly gay member of the state Senate, which has 21 Republicans and eight Democrats.

Matheson is a moderate known for frequently siding with Republicans. The disagreement over health care is reflective of the sprawling 2nd congressional district, which extends from the urban and more liberal Salt Lake County to the conservative rural eastern and southern parts of the state adjacent to Colorado and Arizona.

Republicans have long tried to wrestle the seat away from Matheson, but his margin of victory has only increased in the past three elections. He won with 63 percent of the vote in 2008.

McCoy contends that with voting numbers that high, Matheson shouldn't be afraid to side with Democrats more frequently.

"The Republicans can't find a ham sandwich to run against him," he said.

Matheson was considered Democrats' best chance at winning a special gubernatorial election or defeating U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett in 2010, but decided against entering either race. However, Matheson didn't rule out running for either office in 2012.