You haven't heard the last of John Harmer, the charismatic, conservative Republican who was beaten by Karl Snow in the Sept. 11 GOP primary in the 3rd Congressional District.
A day after Snow's defeat by Democrat Bill Orton in a district 3-1 Republican, Harmer and other hard-line conservatives say they're forming a new group that will identify true conservatives and promote their political candidacies.Harmer isn't starting his own political party. In that respect, he differs from Merrill Cook, who jumped from the Republican Party in 1988, saying it's a closed institution that won't listen to different viewpoints.
Harmer may agree with that assessment. But he; his campaign manager, Mickey Cochran; GOP state Rep. Pat Nix, who was defeated by a fellow Republican this year; and other well-known Utah County Republicans are founding "Legacy," a group that lists among its goals a
promise to "mobilize effective political and social influence in furtherance of individual liberty, responsibility, and in support of the principles of constitutional government."
The group will conduct its first meeting Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Cottontree Inn, 2230 N. University Parkway in Provo. There will be four speakers at the organizing conference.
"We want to meet the conservative political needs at the grass-roots level," said Cochran. "Frankly, we wouldn't have to do this if the Republican Party did. But it's incapable of it with the weak leadership it now has."
Cochran said Legacy will be a non-partisan group that will, among other things, recruit, educate, train and motivate citizens willing to seek public office. "What criteria will we have (for support)? Not detailed yet, but certainly support of the Constitution, proper role of government, public virtue and support of family.
"We're not a political party. We definitely plan to be active in other parties, especially the Republican Party, in candidate recruitment, mass meetings and conventions. Yes, we'll promote those who agree with our ideals all the way (in the political process). We plan to be a watchdog group, active in a number of areas."
A group of dissatisfied Republicans came to Harmer before the primary election, Cochran said. They were concerned that the party hierarchy wasn't attentive to their concerns.
One complaint was the disorganized, aggressive, destructive nature of the GOP 3rd District race, which had six candidates, said Cochran. "If Richard Snelgrove (state GOP chairman) had stepped in at the beginning and shown some leadership, this terrible mess wouldn't have happened" - the culmination being Orton's election to Congress, said Cochran.
"The general concern is that many people, some conservatives, don't feel represented in the party. What can we do?" Legacy is their answer, a group that says it will maintain "our political heritage," he said.
"The people in power (in the Republican Party) are very far away from the rank and file. It's been said that the national party has three differences with conservatives: ideology, style and arrogance. I think we share the same ideology here in Utah, but the style and arrogance of our leaders is certainly evident," said Cochran.
Responded Snelgrove: "We welcome any group in the party. If they are not part of us, they'll be a cause without a party. And what good is that? There's no problem as long as they agree to close ranks and support a Republican candidate after Republican delegates or voters have spoken."
Many blame Harmer and his followers for not supporting Snow in the final election. Exit polls show that more than 50 percent of the people who voted for Harmer in the primary voted for Orton in the final election.
Cochran said that's a bad rap. "It wasn't John or his supporters that cost Snow the race. Chickens came home to roost because of arrogant, inept party leadership."