SALT LAKE CITY — State Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, announced Tuesday that he's been endorsed in his bid for the new 4th Congressional District seat by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
"It shows a recognition on Sen. Lee's part that he and I are ideologically the same. We are both fighting for the same things," Wimmer said, citing constitutionally limited government, balanced budgets and overall "fiscal sanity."
It is the first endorsement made by Lee in a Utah race. The freshman senator, already seen as a key figure in the national tea party movement, is publicly supporting U.S. Senate candidates in Texas and Arizona.
Lee has declined to back Utah's senior Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, in his bid for a seventh term. He has also chosen not to pick a favorite in the Republican race for president, despite have served as general counsel to former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.
That's because he's being selective about which races he gets involved in, Lee said.
"I plan on using my endorsements in circumstances where you've got either an empty seat or a candidate who is not an incumbent for that office who shares my political philosophy but might not get the attention he or she deserves without my endorsement," he said.
Lee said he's seen no reason to get involved in the presidential race and will evaluate other requests for endorsements "on a case-by-case basis. … I'd definitely not say to expect to see a lot more."
He said he will campaign for Wimmer as well as help him secure funding from national conservative groups aligned with the tea party. Lee said Wimmer was an early supporter of his own bid to unseat former GOP Sen. Bob Bennett.
Wimmer, who said he declared his intentions to run for Congress sooner than expected after reaching his initial fundraising goal of $100,000, welcomed the backing.
"Sen. Lee is a man of principle and a man who believes deeply in doing the right thing and doing what's right for this nation," Wimmer said. "I have such a tremendous amount of respect for Sen. Lee. He is a rising star."
Wimmer is the first candidate to come forward in the race for the as-yet undefined 4th District seat in Congress. Lawmakers are still working on the boundaries for the state's congressional districts as part of the once-every-decade redistricting process.
Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, said Lee's endorsement could help discourage other candidates from entering the race.
"Lee's been very careful about his endorsements," Jowers said. "I think a Lee endorsement is powerful."
And, in this case, not entirely unexpected.
"Wimmer is very popular among a segment of the delegates and Utah Republican voters," Jowers said. "Had Lee not endorsed Wimmer after everything Wimmer had done for Lee, I think a lot of people would have found that ungrateful."