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Continuing to court moderate Republicans, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, announced a re-election committee that will be led by former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and Zions Bank CEO Scott Anderson.
And the group will include a variety of conservatives with tea-party and business ties.
Huntsman had received encouragement to run against Lee in 2016 but said he wouldn't challenge a friend and former employee who he considers "brilliant." Lee served as his general counsel when Huntsman was Utah's chief executive.
Huntsman's father, billionaire industrialist Jon Huntsman Sr., has a far different opinion of Utah's junior senator, having recently called Lee "an embarrassment" to the state for championing a strategy to fight the Affordable Care Act, which led to a partial government shutdown in 2013.
Anderson had helped Lee raise money in his 2010 campaign, but after the shutdown, he also publicly criticized Lee.
"I think people admire him for sticking to his guns and principles, but I think there are growing frustrations," Anderson told The Washington Post in October 2013. "If things are to happen, you can't just stick to your principles. You have to make things work. ... You've got to be practical."
At that time, Lee's poll numbers had plummeted, and the assumption was that he would face a strong challenge from within the Republican Party. He has sought to build stronger ties to Utah's conservative business community and has advocated an anti-poverty agenda using tea-party goals of limited government and promoting stronger family relationships.
"Mike Lee's impact and influence in the U.S. Senate continues to grow as he collaborates on an agenda focused on meaningful reform and empowering good people to strengthen their communities," Anderson said in a statement announcing the new re-election committee.
Committee members include former Utah Gov. Norm Bangerter, former Rep. Jim Hansen, Zions Bank CEO Harris Simmons and carmaker David Kirkham, a founder of the Utah tea party.
No Republican has announced a challenge to Lee, though former state Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright and Josh Romney, the son of former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have often been mentioned as possible candidates.