Two years ago, native Utahn John Willoughby was a tea partier who won the Republican nomination in Hawaii in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono.
Now the retired Navy aviator and current United Airlines pilot has moved back to Utah and is taking aim at Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah. He said Wednesday that he will run for Matheson's House seat.
Of course, the Legislature has not yet drawn new U.S. House districts in Utah, and it is possible that Draper resident Willoughby and Matheson could be put into different districts. Also, Matheson says he is considering running for the U.S. Senate or governor instead next year.
Willoughby, 52, said he will seek to run against Matheson even if they are put into different districts. Federal law does not require a candidate to live in the U.S. House district he or she would represent, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, does not live in his district.
"If Draper is redistricted out, I'll still pursue it because I believe Matheson has got to go. He's silent. He's inattentive. He's been missing in action. He's good at avoiding issues, and when he does face an issue, he tends to be ambivalent," Willoughby said. "He is vulnerable to the right candidate, and I believe I am that candidate."
If Matheson chooses to run for the Senate or governor, Willoughby said he will still run for the House.
Willoughby is the son of former Salt Lake City police Chief Bud Willoughby. The University of Utah graduate also served 26 years in the Navy.
He said he won two Air medals during combat in Somalia in battles that inspired the book and movie "Black Hawk Down." He said he flew a reconnaissance aircraft that came under fire as it tried to lead ground troops to help soldiers whose helicopter had been shot down. Willoughby said that on his first day in office if elected, he would "submit legislation to repeal Obamacare. That will send a message to our financial institutions and world markets that the days of out-of-control spending and big government being all things to all people are finally over."
He also vows to "fight unjust illegal immigration reform" and to seek tax reform to put more money into the pockets of residents that he says would help spur economic recovery and create more jobs.
He vowed that if elected, he would donate any salary above the $80,000 that he currently makes as an airline pilot "to my two favorite charities: Wounded Warriors and the Shriners Hospitals." He said he would not take congressional retirement or health benefits that are better than he now has.
Willoughby also vowed to be "the sort of representative envisioned by the Founding Fathers, who would serve a term or two and then return to my airline job. I would serve no more than two terms."
Willoughby and his wife, Yong Hui, have been married 22 years and have three children.