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Chris Cannon

Did you get a little tired of hearing about illegal immigration during the 3rd Congressional District Republican primary?

Now that Rep. Chris Cannon has won the GOP nomination, his Democratic opponent, Christian Burridge, says immigration won't be the front-and-center issue for the final race.

Cannon's "poor record" will be, Burridge said Wednesday.

In Tuesday's primary, final but unofficial figures show Cannon defeated fellow Republican John Jacob 55.8 percent to 44.2 percent. Cannon received 32,306 votes to Jacob's 25,589. Jacob, a millionaire through water and land development, gave his campaign $413,000 — so he ended up spending just over $16 for every vote he received.

Illegal immigration was the main theme of the primary. An anti-illegal immigration political action committee — Team America — spent more than $40,000 on independent radio ads, slamming Cannon and praising Jacob.

Writing on the National Journal's Hotline, political analyst Richard Cohen said Wednesday that Cannon's victory reinforces GOP House incumbents across the nation. Where once Roll Call magazine, which covers Congress, placed Cannon as one of the 10 most vulnerable incumbents in the nation, with Cannon's solid win over an anti-illegal immigration candidate, the often shrill, but relatively small-in-number, anti-illegal immigration candidates are not faring well.

"Cannon's win continues a clear-cut pattern for GOP primaries that have been contested on immigration: Hard-liner, single-issue candidates continue to lose," Cohen said.

But Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Report called Utah's 3rd District primary "a skirmish" in the GOP national immigration war. "It wasn't settled there. You won't have much of a general election (because the district is so heavily Republican). Some who feel very strongly on the immigration question may stay home" in the final 3rd District election.

But Rothenberg said that won't affect the final outcome — Cannon wins.

Burridge, a consumer rights attorney, said that while he'll talk about immigration at times, he will mainly go after other areas of Cannon's 10-year voting record.

A winner of national debate awards while in college, Burridge says he'll try to meet Cannon face-to-face "anytime, anywhere."

Just a few of Burridge's comments about Cannon:

• "We deserve a full-time representative."

Burridge says he'll close his law practice if he wins in November. He charges that Cannon spends time on his private capital investment firms. Cannon says he doesn't spend time on private business, and that's the main reason he's personally lost tens of millions of dollars since his 1996 election.

• "I'm totally against gambling, especially in Utah."

Burridge charges that while Cannon says he's against gambling, in reality he's taken significant campaign contributions from pro-gambling interests. And a former Cannon staffer, David H. Safavian, was recently convicted of lying to federal authorities as part of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Safavian was no longer working for Cannon when he became caught up in the scandal.

"Cannon voted in favor" of some of the bills that Abramoff pushed for Indian gambling interests, said Burridge.

But Cannon counters that he's consistently voted to curb gambling in all instances.

• "Chris has voted 97 percent of the time with House Republican leadership. I will be an independent voice for the district," said Burridge.

While it is always tough for a Democrat to raise money and win in the heavily Republican 3rd District, Burridge says a number of issues are working for him.

First, it is not a presidential election year. And while 3rd District residents buck the national trend and give Bush a job approval rating of more than 50 percent, not having Bush's name on the ballot should help him, Burridge said.

Second, Burridge said neither Congress as a whole nor Cannon specifically is greatly liked in the district. A recent Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates found that 38 percent of the district residents hold an unfavorable opinion of Cannon.

Republicans nationally and locally are divided on a number of issues, including immigration, and apathy runs through the GOP, Burridge said.

"I'd debate Chris every night if I could," said Burridge. "Maybe I'll get only three to five debates with him. But I'll be taking my messages to the voters, engaging them in dialogue. And if he's not there, that will be noticed."


E-mail: bbjr@desnews.com