Tom Smart, Deseret News
SANDY — Salt Lake County Republicans dumped one moderate state House member Saturday and picked a County Council and treasurer nominee, as the typical contentious annual meeting went off without any real fireworks.
There were mumblings of discontent when U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, addressed the group. Local and national arch-conservative groups want Bennett defeated this year. And Bennett's GOP challengers were cheered in their speeches before delegates.
But no one was arrested at the South Towne Expo Center or forced from the premises — as has happened before in previous Salt Lake County GOP conventions.
Many of the 1,500 county GOP delegates were new this year — which brought excitement and perhaps a bit of caution to a convention that has seen its share of political and rhetorical skirmishes in years gone by.
But the delegates Saturday were polite, even if they did treat a few GOP officeholders harshly in the balloting.
Long-time state Rep. Steve Mascaro, R-West Jordan, was run over by a conservative, anti-incumbent tide that is sweeping the state and much of the nation. Attorney Ken Ivory was picked by the House District 47 delegates to be on November's ballot, ending Mascaro's tenure.
And Rep. Merlynn Newbold, R-South Jordan, was forced into a June GOP primary with Steve Roberts in House District 50.
Mascaro is just the latest GOP moderate to be pushed aside by GOP conservatives in the Legislature the last few elections.
Before his delegates voted, Mascaro told the Deseret News: "I may get swept away by this new wave of right-wingers that have come into the convention this year. I'm a moderate, and I guess that's OK."
A few fellow GOP legislators turned against Mascaro. Ivory was nominated by Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, and Senate Majority Whip Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy. Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, stood up with Wimmer and Niederhauser for Ivory, but did not speak.
Wimmer said that Mascaro's district needs "a principled conservative who will stand up for smaller government."
And in addressing the delegates Ivory talk more about fighting against the federal government than Utah needs.
Attorney General Mark Shurtleff nominated Mascaro, saying the lawmaker supports state's rights and law enforcement. Mascaro said he has worked hard for his district, supported a dozen state's rights bills in the 2010 Legislature and has labored 43 years in his community.
Just fighting against Washington, D.C., is not enough, said Mascaro, although he said he's done that. "We are, after all, one nation under God. And Washington, D.C., is still part of America."
But Ivory got 77 percent of the vote, a crushing defeat for Mascaro.
Bennett, speaking in a tough tone, reminded delegates what he and fellow Republican congressmen have done over the 18 years he's been in his seat.
Part of that work included defeating President Bill Clinton's national health care reform in the early 1990s. He said Congress works best when "new blood" is helped by experienced hands. And he's that experienced hand, he said. When some delegates shouted out against Bennett during his talk, they were shushed by others in the crowd.
GOP Senate candidate Tim Bridgewater drew cheers when he said he's there to retire career politicians like Bennett.
And attorney Mike Lee, seen as the favorite going into the May 8 state GOP convention where Senate candidates will be voted on, said a new, constitutionally-based political revolution is coming to America. And it "starts today in Utah" with the defeat of Bennett, Lee said to cheers.
In the 2nd District congressional race, candidates vying to unseat Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson called on delegates not be complacent and to rally their neighbors.
"We are way too deep in manure to be mellow right now," said candidate Morgan Philpot, a former state legislator.
Even in the races for state and local offices, national politics dominated the rhetoric.
N. William Clayton, nominated to run against Democratic Rep. Marie Poulson, said his campaign goal is to defeat "Obamanism," and he vowed to lead "a Republican resurgence that will rival the Reagan Revolution."
Some of the major decisions made in the convention:
Former County Councilman Steve Harmsen won the Council District 1 nomination outright, defeating Gordon Lund Gurr with 65 percent of the vote.
Harmsen said, if elected, his first proposal to reduce the budegt would be to slash public employees' salaries.
"What we've got is high paying jobs with minimal qualifications," he said.
Former County Councilman Winston Wilkinson and former GOP state chairman Richard Snelgrove go to a June primary in the countywide Council District B race.
K. Wayne Cushing is the treasurer nominee, winning over two challengers.
All of the candidates picked in Saturday's GOP convention and primary match-ups can be found online at: slcogop.com.
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