SALT LAKE CITY — The ouster of Sen. Bob Bennett at the Utah Republican convention on Saturday continues an interesting historical trend in which few Utah senators ever leave office by choice — instead they are usually eventually rejected by voters.
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, rejection 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, as Bennett did. Bennett was attempting to become the oldest senator ever elected in the state. (He would be 77 by November's election.)
One example of rejecting elderly senators 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.