SANDY — Utah Republicans fell in love with one congressional candidate and waged a nasty battle over another one at the GOP state convention Saturday.
Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love won the hearts and minds of delegates at the state GOP convention, and secured the party's nomination for the 4th Congressional District seat in the process.
And pilot and author Chris Stewart fought his way to the nomination in the 2nd District amid accusations he was a "bald-faced liar" over confusing allegations about backroom dealings.
Neither will face a primary election.
Love fired up the nearly 4,000 delegates at the South Towne Expo Center more than any candidate all day with an impassioned speech aimed at Washington in general and Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson specifically.
"Jim Matheson should be pretty scared right now. We're going to send him home. It's time," Love said after winning 70.5 percent of the delegate vote over former state legislator Carl Wimmer in the second round of voting. Candidates Stephen Sandstrom, Jay Cobb and Kenneth Gray were eliminated after the first ballot.
"He's never been up against a candidate like me," she said, extolling her record as mayor. But that's not all that sets her apart.
"I know where you're trying to go with that. Let's just be honest here. Saratoga Springs doesn't have the best bond rating because I'm black and female. That didn't happen. It's because of the policies we put in place."
Matheson dismissed Love's tough talk. "I don't think that's what this is about. I actually have a lot of confidence," he said late Saturday. "From what I've seen from my opponent, she is way out there on some of her positions."
And not all Republicans were enamored of Love, at least in the heat of the moment.
In introducing Wimmer before the second round of voting with Love, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said the party needs a leader not a "novelty."
Afterward, Shurtleff said it was a terrible choice of words and "it breaks my heart." He said he apologized to Love.
Love declined to comment on Shurtleff's remark. "It's time for us to start uniting as Republicans all together, to get something done," she said.
A disappointed Wimmer threw his support behind Love, but didn't rule out a future run for office. "We ran a great race," he said. "We worked harder than anyone. It just didn't go our way."
The 2nd District race turned heated in the speeches before the first round of voting, with Eureka Mayor Milt Hanks decrying what said was an attack on Stewart by other candidates.
Hanks said the party needs to get away from what he called the "hog trough of backroom deals and backstabbing," receiving a standing ovation from many delegates.
Later, before the second round of voting, another candidate, Chuck Williams, accused Stewart of being a "bald-faced liar." Williams, Cherilyn Eager and Howard Wallack all withdrew their names and endorsed Clark.
But in the end, the delegates backed Stewart, giving him nearly 62 percent of the vote in a final round against Clark.
Gil Miller, a Kaysville city councilman and 2nd District delegate, said the delegates "had had enough of the theatrics."
Miller said he received a letter in the mail last week that implicated Stewart in a dirty tricks campaign against former Sen. Bob Bennett in the 2010 election as well as questioning Stewart's military record.
Clark said after the final vote he'd never seen the letter.
"If it was intended to create confusion, they were probably successful," Clark said. "It's sad."
Stewart told reporters he didn't know whether the controversy was what put him over the top.
"It's hard for me to say and I'd hate to speculate," he said. "We're just grateful for the support of the delegates."
Democrats, meanwhile, nominated former state lawmaker Jay Seegmiller in the 2nd District at their state convention in Salt Lake City, which had much less drama than the GOP gathering.
Democratic state party Chairman Jim Debakis called the convention a "model of efficiency and civility," as only one race ended up heading for a primary.
In her speech to delegates, Love said Matheson has failed to stand up to the federal government and "betrayed Utah values."
Matheson told Democratic delegates that Americans are tired of the partisan gridlock in Congress.
"If we're honest about this, we know this can't continue. It's hurting our country in the long run," he told state party delegates Saturday morning.
As Matheson has traveled the state, Utahns have told him that they crave a "common sense" approach to the issues on the national agenda. "Pretty simple, right?"
Earlier in the day, GOP delegates determined Gov. Gary Herbert will be the party's nominee for governor in November.
Herbert won 63.3 percent of the vote in a second round of balloting over former state lawmaker Morgan Philpot, more than the 60 percent needed to avoid a party primary in June.
The second round of voting came after the other four candidates, Utah tea party leader David Kirkham, Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork, Lane Ronnow and William Skokas, failed to advance.
Kirkham, who came in a distant third in the initial balloting, threw his support behind the governor in the second round, which was needed after Herbert fell just short of the 60 percent needed in the first round.
Hebert was hurt by concerns raised in recent days about a federal education initiative, "Common Core." His supporters said Kirkham's endorsement made the difference with delegates who were wavering.
"Make no mistake, I support local control not federal control of education," a forceful Herbert told the delegates before the second round of voting started. "Do not be misled on this issue."
And while Herbert said the fight against federal control should continue, he said Utahns should not lose sight of need to continue the state's economic recovery.
"Let's not take our eye off the ball," he said.
Philpot had told the delegates "leadership is not taking credit, it is taking responsibility" and accused the Herbert administration of "making promises it has already broken."
Herbert's Democratic opponent is Peter Cooke, a retired two-start general.
Cooke told Democrats that the fact that it took Herbert two rounds of voting to secure the GOP nomination showed his party's support for the incumbent governor "was not unified."
But the retired two-star general suggested that no GOP primary will work to his and running mate Vince Rampton's advantage, giving them more time to show voters differences between Cooke and Herbert. "The sooner we get to it, the better off we'll be."
The two Republican candidates for Utah attorney general will square off in a primary election.
Assistant attorney general John Swallow received 54.5 percent and corporate and trial lawyer Sean Reyes received 45.5 percent of the delegate vote.
Swallow said he would lead the fight for public lands in Utah, to curb illegal immigration and to defeat Obamacare. "I have learned how to fight in the courtroom, in the Legislature and in the attorney general's office," Swallow told delegates.
Reyes said he, too, would fight for Utah on those same issues. He said he would return the attorney general's office to a law office "of and for the people" that is not unduly influenced by lobbyists or a political agenda.
The winner of the June primary faces Democratic Weber County Attorney Dee Smith in November.
In the 1st Congressional District, Rob Bishop easily won the Republican nomination over two challengers. Ditto for Rep. Jason Chaffetz in the 3rd District.
In the Democrats only primary for a statewide race, Donna McAleer and Ryan Combe will face off in June for the 1st Congressional District nomination.
"I'm disappointed at having a primary, I'm not going to deny that. Primaries consume a lot of financial and human resources," said McAleer, a West Point graduate who has worked as a corporate vice president, run a nonprofit organization.
Combe, director of marketing for Weber State University, attributed the final outcome to "people voting their hearts."
Salt Lake City Council Chairman Soren Simon won the Democratic nomination for the 3rd Congressional District.
Former GOP state lawmaker John Dougall, backed by Senate President Michael Waddoups and House Speaker Becky Lockhart, forced a primary election with incumbent state auditor Auston Johnson.
Democrats nominated Chris Stout for state treasurer and Mark Sage for state auditor.
Contributing: Marjorie Cortez
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