OREM Eagle Mountain millionaire John D. Jacob will run against five-term Congressman Chris Cannon next year, Jacob announced Monday.
The decision means Cannon will face opposition from a fellow Republican for the sixth time in six races, no surprise this time given his controversial position in the midst of a national debate on immigration.
Jacob initially considered running against another Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch, but he changed his mind late in the summer. He visited each member of Utah's congressional delegation in Washington over Labor Day weekend, including Cannon.
"It was different than the other four," Jacob said. "Of course, I'm running against him. You could tell he was threatened."
Cannon's chief of staff described Cannon Monday as ready. FEC reports show that Cannon had $66,000 on hand as of June 30, three times what he had at the same point in the last election cycle.
"We always look forward to a vigorous campaign," Joe Hunter said. "We take any opponent seriously. This campaign will be no different."
Money will be a factor because plenty of it will be spent. Cannon is a millionaire, also, and both men could finance their campaigns on their own.
"I have the ability to spend whatever is needed," Jacob said. "I'd prefer it would come from donations from others. I'm thinking $500,000 to $1 million is what it's going to take."
Another Republican might still join Cannon and Jacob in the race. State Sen. Curt Bramble of Provo is still Cannon's campaign treasurer, but he said again Monday that he will make a decision before the end of the year.
Democrats also plan to challenge Cannon again.
"We definitely will have a strong contender there," state Democratic Party chairman Wayne Holland said. "Right now it's an issue of whether we can handle a race against an incumbent war chest, but with the possibility there will be an open seat in the November 2006 election because Cannon might lose in a primary, there is unusual interest among potential candidates."
Jacob is a former air traffic controller who made his fortune in real estate and developing and selling water rights. The Utah County Commission appointed him to a one-year term on the first Eagle Mountain City Council in the 1990s. He ran to keep the seat but lost.
His wife, Diane Kimball Jacob, later successfully ran for City Council. She resigned her seat a year ago.
Jacob has always wanted to run for office, which he said was the major factor in his decision despite differences with Cannon on immigration reform and other issues.
"I'm not really trying to run against someone in my own party," he said, "but it's somewhere I feel I can make a tremendous difference."
Cannon spent more than $600,000 to defeat Republican challenger Matt Throckmorton and Democrat Beau Babka in 2004. Throckmorton raised $84,000. Babka spent $35,000. However, immigration reform groups also attacked Cannon through billboards, ads and Web sites.
Hunter estimated those groups spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attempt to weaken Cannon, a co-sponsor of bipartisan federal legislation that would streamline employment of foreign laborers. It also would offer temporary visas and ultimately U.S. citizenship to undocumented workers, who would have to pay fines and complete other requirements. President Bush backs the plan.
National lobbying groups opposed to the plan attack it as soft on borders and soft on people who committed a crime by entering the country illegally.
"That issue certainly didn't defeat us," Hunter said of the 2004 election. Cannon topped Throckmorton in the primary, 58 percent to 42. He beat Babka 63-33.
"It is highly likely Congress will deal with the immigration issue between now and next year's election," Hunter said, "probably sooner rather than later. That will be the opportunity for people to see what Chris Cannon's position is on immigration. It will be very strong on border enforcement and internal enforcement."
"I do have a different viewpoint about it," Jacob said. "I feel we at least need to enforce the laws we have."
The decision by Jacob comes very early, less than a year since Cannon was re-elected. More than seven months remain before the state Republican convention. The Republican primary is June 27.
Jacob is focused on enforcing U.S. borders, protecting families and building a robust economy with low taxes and limited government.
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