During an eight-hour car ride with Rep. Chris Cannon, Jeremy Friedbaum decided to challenge the incumbent Republican in the 3rd Congressional District.
Earlier this month, when Cannon heard that Friedbaum had inquired about filing as a Republican, he invited the Provo harp maker to accompany him to Roosevelt for a Lincoln Day dinner.Friedbaum says he accepted because he saw the trip as a chance to quiz Cannon about some of the congressman's stands he finds disturbing.
Friedbaum questioned Cannon's votes in favor of statehood for Puerto Rico, most-favored-nation status for China and a new patent law that Friedbaum says caters to big business at the expense of small-time inventors. But the final straw, he says, was Cannon's vote for a new income tax code, a law Cannon assailed in his speech to Republicans in Roosevelt.
"There lies the difference between Chris Cannon and me," Friedbaum said. "I will consistently vote in the best interest of the country. Chris will consistently vote the way (party) leadership asks him even if it's a horrible compromise between Clinton and Gingrich."
Cannon, a wealthy venture capitalist, obviously has an inside track to the Republican nomination, but he now faces an unexpected intraparty challenge.
Friedbaum's candidacy provides some intrigue in what promises to be a dull 3rd District race since the Democrats weren't able to muster a candidate. He delayed filing for office until just before Tuesday's deadline at Cannon's request. He said Cannon asked him to hold off because the congressman would appear to Democrats as a stronger incumbent and it would discourage the rival party from fielding an opponent. Friedbaum said he agreed because it was good for the GOP.
"The interesting thing is that it makes him much more vulnerable to me," he said.
The race will be won or lost at the state convention in May. The GOP nominee will waltz to Washington from there. Friedbaum intends to spend all his time and what few dollars he has wooing convention delegates, many of whom will be selected at next Tuesday's mass meetings.
Friedbaum said he offers people a choice they didn't think they had. Articulate - he has a master's degree in English from Brigham Young University and has taught writing there - and politically astute, he believes he can appeal to the many first-time delegates who'll attend the convention under its expanded format.
"They might be new and idealistic like me," he said.
"Chris Cannon thinks I'm naive," Friedbaum said. "I think Chris Cannon is terribly disappointing."
Friedbaum considers himself "right of conservative." His political heros are Alan Keyes, a perennial Republican presidential candidate, and Rep. Matt Salmon, a conservative Arizona Republican who is an LDS Church member.
Friedbaum attributes many of his own views to "America's Voice," a cable television station that airs strictly right-wing programs. He said he likes the channel because people don't mind expressing their opinions about God and government.
A devout member of the LDS Church since joining it in his native New York City some 20 years ago, Friedbaum said his entry into the race followed a religious experience. He said he feels inspired to run.
"I'm not scared of anything in this world but disappointing my God," he said.
Friedbaum said he tends to plunge head first into whatever he does. The 21-year resident of Provo who's married and has three children ran a successful computer business for six years before getting into building harps about 18 months ago. Depressed by the prolonged illness and death of his mother, Fried-baum sought solace in the 46-string, triangular instrument.
"I thought, `I'm going to heal myself by learning to play a harp,' " he said.
Lacking the $3,000 to buy one, Friedbaum bought the components instead and built one from scratch. He soon found he was a better harp maker than harp player and started building instruments for a living in a shop at his home.
The business isn't lucrative, and the $342 filing fee for Congress nearly kept him from running. Friedbaum intends to spend less than $5,000 on his campaign and said Cannon's millions don't worry him. Fund raising doesn't figure much into his plans, nor do campaign signs or buttons, which he says insult people's intelligence.
"I'm talking to people who want me to touch their hearts and their hands, but not their pocketbooks," he said.