Mark Diorio, Deseret Morning News
Merrill Cook speaks on immigration as adviser Russell Sias looks on.

Merrill Cook, now 60, was defeated in a 2000 GOP primary — the only House incumbent beaten in a primary that year. It came amid stories about staffers calling him a delusional tyrant, about being ejected from party headquarters for cussing and a former campaign manager suing for unpaid bills.

But Cook says he has been able to pick up the pieces and enjoy a good life after Congress. "I did a radio program for three or four years at K-TALK. I'm doing some consulting" related to the mining-explosives business he had before Congress, he says.

He says he misses Congress and politics in general. He attempted two unsuccessful comeback races for Congress (in 2002 and 2006, not getting out of convention ether time), and also lost a race in 2004 (as an independent) for Salt Lake County mayor.

"Politics are in my blood," he says. "I haven't totally given up on it (running for office) yet, although I have nothing in my sights at the moment. I don't know that I will ever write that out of my mind."

His two terms in Congress were all he ever won despite running for office 11 times, including a 1984 run for the State School Board; a 1985 campaign for mayor of Salt Lake City; a 1986 race for Salt Lake County commissioner; runs in 1988 and 1992 for governor; and an unsuccessful campaign in 1994 for the U.S. House before he was finally elected.

About Congress, he says, "I loved it. I miss the debate in committees. I loved to immerse myself in committee work.... I miss the debate on the House floor."

He adds, "I loved things like being able to ask Alan Greenspan questions."

He says he does not miss fund raising, and he complains that party leaders would even encourage him to skip some committee meetings to work harder on it.

"I put my heart and soul into it, and my money. I took a lot of criticism," he says. "But people know me as someone who is committed and honest and who wants to help."