Utah GOP delegates dump Sen. Bob Bennett at state convention; Bridgewater, Lee to battle in primary
Bennett's ouster continues an interesting historical trend — few Utah senators ever leave by choice, and most are eventually rejected by voters instead. In fact, only two senators in the state's history ever retired by choice: former Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, and Bennett's father, former Sen. Wallace Bennett, R-Utah.
However, the dumping usually occurs in a general election against a candidate from the opposing party. The last time that a party itself rejected an incumbent Utah senator was 1940, when four-term incumbent Sen. William H. King, D-Utah, was beaten in a primary by his eventual successor Sen. Abe Murdock, D-Utah.
Utah also has a long history of dumping aging senators, even if they have plenty of seniority and powerful positions. Bennett was attempting to become the oldest senator ever elected in the state. (He would be 77 by November's final election.)
One example is that King was the 79-year-old Senate President Pro Tempore (senior member of the majority party) when he was defeated by 54-year-old Murdock.
Another example is that former Sen. Reed Smoot, R-Utah, was defeated at age 72 (in 1932) despite being chairman of the powerful Finance Committee and being "dean" of the Senate (its longest-serving member) after 30 years of service. Smoot was even an apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Also, former Sen. Elbert D. Thomas, D-Utah, was defeated in 1950 after three terms by Wallace Bennett, who, in part, attacked Thomas' age — which was then "only" 67.
In other action, Gov. Gary Herbert won the GOP nomination with 71 percent of delegate votes against three opponents. Rep. Rob Bishop won 93 percent of delegate votes and was nominated. Rep. Jason Chaffetz faced no opposition.
In a surprisingly close contest in the 2nd Congressional District, former state representative Morgan Philpot won the GOP nomination with 61.3 percent of the delegate vote. Neil Walter barely missed getting into a primary, with 39.87 percent. Philpot will now face the winner of the Democratic primary between Rep. Jim Matheson and Claudia Wright.
Bennett wasn't the only incumbent with problems on Saturday. State Rep. Ben Ferry, R-Corinne, was kicked out of office by Lee B. Perry; Rep. Mel Brown, R-Kamas, was forced into a primary by Jon Hellander (Brown finished second), as was Rep. Becky Edwards, R-Bountiful, with D.J. Schanz.
The other legislative incumbents on the ballot Saturday won re-nomination with more than 60 percent of the vote. In open seats, David Butterfield won the GOP nomination in House District 4, Rick Raile in House District 25, and Daniel Thatcher in Senate District 12.
Contributing: Josh Smith
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