Rep. Chris Cannon goes back to Congress. Salt Lake District Attorney Neal Gunnarson is Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini's latest casualty. And GOP moderates in the Utah House and Senate survive to vote another day.
Tuesday's primary elections showed great voter apathy in a number of counties but some strong turnouts in places like Morgan County and the Uintah Basin.Most ballots only had Republican candidates. There were no Democratic primaries in Salt Lake, Utah, Davis and Weber counties.
In race after race, moderate incumbents fended off challenges from the party's right - in the Utah County Commission race, in the Utah County sheriff's race, in state House and Senate races in Salt Lake and Davis counties.
Don Ruzicka, co-chairman of the Utah Republican Assembly, a GOP group aimed at returning the party to its "conservative ideals," says he believes GOP Gov. Mike Leavitt's telephone bank - where the governor endorsed four incumbent legislators - may have had an impact in those races. "Although I can't say for sure." But the unprecedented actions by the most popular politician in the state won't be forgotten, says Ruzicka, who maintains there will be some accounting.
Leavitt paid $4,000 for a telephone bank supporting four lawmakers - Sen. Dave Steele, R-West Point; and Reps. Susan Koehn, R-Woods Cross; Richard Siddoway, R-Bountiful; and Lloyd Frandsen, R-South Jordan. All four won - and won big. It's the first time anyone can remember where the titular head of the party paid money to aid fellow party members before a primary election.
Republican Janalee Tobias, who lost her bid Tuesday to replace Frandsen, said she knows who to blame. "I'm outraged. I spent my savings on this race," said an emotional Tobias on Tuesday. "My kids went without bicycles. I worked my head off. If I had known (Leavitt) was going to do this (endorse and work for Frandsen), I wouldn't have wasted my time and money. It is so unfair."
Informed of Tobias' comments, Leavitt said he understands the pain that comes from defeat at the polls. "I salute those citizens who are willing step forward as candidates. And I recognize that it is very disappointing if you're not the candidate selected by your fellow citizens," he said.
But an unfair election?
Gunnarson is no doubt thinking about that Wednesday. The career prosecutor refused to press charges against Corradini a year ago after an independent panel of experts told Gunnarson he couldn't win a conviction in Giftgate: the affair in which the Salt Lake mayor admitted she solicited and accepted more than $230,000 from "friends" to keep her out of personal bankruptcy.
Deputy county attorney Mark Griffin made Gunnarson's actions with the mayor the center point of his GOP challenge. And Griffin took Gunnarson out. Griffin now faces former County Attorney Dave Yocom, a Democrat, in the November election.
And Davis County Sheriff Rob Davis isn't so happy. He was unseated by GOP challenger Bud E. Cox.
But other than those contests, it wasn't a bad night for incumbents, said GOP Chairman Rob Bishop.
"There's always some healing after a primary," said the former Utah House speaker. But because so many incumbent GOP House and Senate members won, Bishop believes "Republicans will just fine" in November's elections.
Democratic Party executive director Todd Taylor sees it differently. "The Republicans are so divided, they can't get it together by November. Those (conservatives) who lost are very, very angry," Taylor said.
Salt Lake County GOP Commissioner Mary Callaghan barely survived a challenge by developer Wendy Smith, who was backed by a Callaghan foe, GOP Commissioner Brent Overson. Smith was 100 votes ahead in the Tuesday balloting, but when absentee ballots were counted, Callaghan sneaked ahead by around 150 votes out of more than 54,000 cast. Smith said early Wednesday she wouldn't ask for a recount.
Alpine School District patrons approved a $69 million property tax bond to build and repair schools. And Murray residents soundly defeated a property tax hike to save two well-known brick smokestacks. The vote all but ensures the smokestacks will be destroyed.
Salt Lake Democratic Chairman Joe Hatch asked Democrats last week to vote in GOP primaries and get out the "extremists." Bishop said he sees some indication that some Democrats may have voted in the Republican primaries in Salt Lake and Utah counties.
Cannon's arch-conservative opponent, Jeremy Fried-baum, received more than 25 percent of the vote in Utah County, approximately 30 percent in the 3rd District part of Salt Lake County, but far less in rural Utah. "That indicates some crossover voting to me," Bishop said.
No Democrat filed in the 3rd District, so Cannon is ensured to return to the House for a second term. He said Tuesday night he hopes he can push a tax cut for Americans next year.
Friedbaum, who described himself as a religious fanatic and often quoted the Bible and Book of Mormon in his speeches, said he wouldn't support Cannon in the final election, opting instead to support Independent American Party candidate Will Christensen.
Friedbaum also slammed Leavitt, saying the governor's support of moderate Republicans "shows he is really a moderate himself."
Ruzicka said he wasn't disappointed by the showing of the 16 assembly-endorsed candidates in Tuesday's GOP primaries. Only four won - Callaghan, Dick Perry in House District 48, Rep. Don Bush in House District 14 and Parley Hellewell in Senate District 15. "The assembly is not a year old, we're building," he said.
Ruzicka added the assembly also wouldn't support the moderate GOP candidates who won Tuesday but wouldn't oppose them, either. "We're not changing our criteria for endorsing candidates just because they may be the Republican nominee," he said.
Yes, there may have to be some healing in the Utah Republican Party.