Utah Rep. Carl Wimmer isn't shy about his interest in running for Congress: He has raised at least $100,000 for a potential campaign and has been eager to serve up red meat.
In recent weeks, the Herriman Republican painted a target on Planned Parenthood, saying he was aiming to halt all money from the state to the organization, and now is taking on the federal Transportation Security Administration, announcing plans for a bill to ban TSA pat-downs.
Wimmer said his new bills are in no way tied to any political ambition.
"I reject that notion," he said. "No matter what I do, there are going to be some people who think my motive is that I'm seriously considering running."
Quin Monson, associate director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University, said it appears Wimmer is playing to conservative Republican delegates and also putting down a marker on federal issues that might be important if he ends up in Congress.
"He's been very visible in the Legislature anyway in ways that are important on things that are solely state policy," Monson said, "but I think what seems to be going on is this is a way for him to communicate that he's a bona fide conservative on federal issues."
Wimmer is following the lead of Texas legislation, which would have barred airport pat-downs. Lawmakers backed down after the TSA and Justice Department threatened that prohibiting the security procedure could force the cancellation of flights into Texas.
"Frankly, I dare them to do something that brazen and foolish," Wimmer said. "To have the audacity to even threaten that should really infuriate every red-blooded American."
Wimmer also is taking a cue from another state this time Indiana in trying to restrict money flowing to Planned Parenthood.
During the past few years, Planned Parenthood of Utah has received, on average, about $150,000 in federal Medicaid money that passes through the state to the agency. Most of it is used for communicable-disease control, according to state records. Federal law bars it from funding abortions.
"I want to stop that," Wimmer said. The money "may not go directly to abortions. It's going to Planned Parenthood so they can continue to operate as normal and continue to do abortions. … Whether or not that money is used for abortions is irrelevant."
Karrie Galloway, director of Planned Parenthood of Utah, said the agency received taxpayer money for campaigns against chlamydia, teenage pregnancy and sexual violence.
Halting funds "doesn't hurt Planned Parenthood," she said. "It hurts the people who have to get the services."
She said Planned Parenthood of Utah provided family-planning services to nearly 52,000 men and women and has performed 100 abortions.
"I think [Wimmer] is serious about it," Galloway said. "He is, by the way, running for Congress and this is his platform."
Wimmer has been aggressively raising money for a congressional exploratory committee he formed late last year. He won't say how much he has amassed, except that it is in six figures.
"I would be very, very surprised," Wimmer said, "if you don't see me on the ballot for Congress."