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Congressman Rob Bishop may be the next target in the tea party's broad offensive against the Utah Republican establishment.

Jacqueline Smith, one of the state's most active tea party organizers, is exploring a run against Bishop and plans to decide in the next week or two if she will jump in the race.

"He has been a very popular representative for the past decade but recently some of his votes have been anti-liberty," said Smith, from Wanship, in Summit County.

Her main complaint is his support for a recent defense authorization bill that included a provision allowing the government to indefinitely detain American citizens believed to be supporting terrorists without charges or a trial.

Smith calls the provision "a huge violation of [Congress members'] oath of office and our constitutional rights."

Bishop has a different interpretation of the bill, noting that it says, "Nothing in this section is intended to limit or expand the authority of the president."

While the government could indefinitely detain a suspected terrorist, Bishop said the government still must explain why before a federal judge.

Smith also criticizes Bishop for requesting millions of dollars in earmarks, some of which went to benefit donors to his campaign. Congress has at least temporarily banned the practice by which members of Congress could request money for pet projects back home, after it became a political symbol of unnecessary government spending. Supporters of earmarking, though, argue it was an efficient way for elected officials to address the needs of their district.

"I think we'll wait for now to get into details about the campaign or potential challengers, but we're always happy to answer questions or concerns anyone may have," said Bishop's chief of staff, Scott Parker. "Rob has a solid, consistent record of supporting limited government, lower taxes and protection of our rights, and we'll defend that any day."

Smith said Bishop has also been in office for 10 years and it's time for someone else to have a chance.

"The district has never been given a real choice of another candidate," she said. "I think the process itself is healthy when people have more choices."

Other tea party activists are already challenging Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and Republicans Gov. Gary Herbert and Sen. Orrin Hatch. If Smith challenges Bishop, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, would be the only big-ticket incumbent without a tea party challenger.

Bishop took office in 2002, beating nine other Republican candidates to take the seat vacated by longtime Rep. Jim Hansen. He did not face a GOP opponent again until 2010, when he beat Mike Ridgway, a Republican outsider who has run for a variety of offices.

He is a member of the House Tea Party Caucus and has appeared at tea party rallies in the state.

Smith and her husband own a plumbing company. She previously worked as an executive assistant for the late philanthropist Robert L. Rice, helping with the accounting at his companies.

Three years ago she started the STAR Forum, a tea party group in Summit County, and is secretary of the Summit County Republicans.

Twitter: @mattcanham

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