- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The son of a former Utah Democratic congressman has decided to run for retiring Rep. Jim Matheson’s seat.

Doug Owens, 50, a son of late Rep. Wayne Owens, took a leave of absence from his Salt Lake City law firm and is the only Democrat jumping into this year’s race, he told The Associated Press.

“If I decided everybody was going to vote party line, I might as well as be dead,” Owens said Tuesday. “I think people will look beyond the labels.”

Owens calls himself an underdog in a race that many analysts say could go to Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, a Republican who nearly toppled Matheson in the last election.

Utah’s 4th Congressional District covers a string of Salt Lake City suburbs stretching south along the Wasatch Front to Sanpete County. It’s one of the most Republican districts in the nation.

Owens cast himself as a moderate who wants to fix President Barack Obama’s health care law instead of jettisoning it, and who favors civil unions but not gay marriage.

The filing deadline for candidates is March 20, and Love has a head-start with $672,000 in her campaign fund a month ago.

Love didn’t return a message left on her cell phone Tuesday by The Associated Press.

Owens said he’d be lucky to raise $200,000 for the campaign - and he just received his first $1,000, from his brother Stephen W. Owens, also a Utah lawyer.

“I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think I had a chance,” Doug Owens said. “She’s certainly the front-runner, I’m the underdog, but I have a real shot. People understand Congress is broken. It should be coming forward with real solutions, but opportunities are lost every day at Congress.”

Owens plans a formal kickoff for his campaign within weeks.

“No one came asking,” Owens said. “I shoved myself forward. I’m in to win.”

He said he was drawing his inspiration from Matheson, who has held office for seven terms against incredible odds for a Democrat in Utah. Matheson hasn’t announced any political aspirations, saying only that he never “saw myself as a lifer” at Congress.

In 2012, Mitt Romney won Matheson’s district with 68 percent of the vote to President Barack Obama’s 30 percent, according to the 2014 Almanac of American Politics.

Wayne Owens was a Utah congressman from 1973 to 1975 and again from 1987 to 1993. In between he ran several times for the U.S. Senate, but he never achieved it.

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