PROVO When it comes to challenging six-term Rep. Chris Cannon's bid for a seventh Republican nomination, Joe Ferguson has experience. Jason Chaffetz and David Leavitt don't.
Utah Republicans have nominated Ferguson for Congress before.
Whether that experience translates well to the 2008 race for the party's nomination in Utah's 3rd Congressional District is an open question because it came way back in 1976 before the state even had a third seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, before Republicans controlled most of the state and before there was such a thing as a personal computer, much less e-mail and the Internet as we know them now.
Ferguson thinks the ensuing 32 years give his candidacy a real boost.
"I am an absolute known quantity," the Cedar Hills resident said. "There's so many liars in politics that people appreciate someone who has a record that is consistent. People who were around back then will remember me and either love me or hate me. Either way, they'll at least recognize that what I was telling them then and what I'm telling them now is the same and is the truth."
Ferguson is 76 but no dinosaur. He's making a DVD to mail to Republican delegates and he has a hard-hitting Web site, www.VoteJoeNPC.com. "The NPC stands for Not Politically Correct," he said. "I tell the truth. If it's politically correct, it's a damn lie."
A colorful speaker with a booming voice, Ferguson left his native Tyler, Texas, in 1948 in a Model A Ford bound for Utah State University, where he learned to fly planes. He later graduated from Brigham Young University and then served in the Air Force from 1953 to '56, flying KC-97 air-to-air refueling tankers out of Mountain Home, Idaho.
He was a commercial airline pilot for 42 years, retiring on his 70th birthday.
A self-described "ornery, crustaceous old devil," Ferguson announced his candidacy at mid-month and promised to keep the race exciting. He also said that if he doesn't win the nomination this year, he'll be back in 2010 at age 78.
Ferguson was right when he said he hadn't changed much since incumbent Democrat Gunn McKay defeated him in 1976. He's still a member of the John Birch Society, which McKay and others made a big issue. He said he is seasoned enough now to handle that better. In fact, the main thrust of his campaign this winter and spring will be direct attacks on President Bush and Cannon, whom he calls a Bush puppet, for looking the other way while Ferguson, the Birch Society and others say the United States is slowly blurring its borders in a secret attempt to merge the nation together with Mexico and Canada in a European Union-like organization they refer to as the North American Union.
"This country is in trouble," he said. "The president is doing a terrible job, the Congress is doing a terrible job and the Supreme Court is doing a terrible job."
Cannon has voted for CAFTA, the Central America Free Trade Agreement, which Ferguson criticized as a step toward a North American Union, and for No Child Left Behind, which Ferguson derided because it gave more power to the U.S. Department of Education, which he said was "like buying a drunk more and more whiskey."
Cannon declined to comment.
Ferguson is a member of the Birch Society's speakers bureau, available to talk about "Marxism: The Greatest Fraud of All Times." "Russia," he said in an interview, "is still a Communist-controlled country, I don't care what they say."
Another of his topics is "The Controlled Media: A Tool of America's Greatest Enemies." Ferguson said those enemies include the Council on Foreign Relations, which he said controls the U.S. media. The immediate past editor of the Deseret Morning News is John Hughes, a member of the CFR. The current editor is Joe Cannon, Rep. Cannon's brother.
Ferguson said he has known Joe Cannon to be fair, but wasn't happy that the paper printed an editorial this month that, within a week of Ferguson's first public appearance as a candidate, called the idea of an NAU "time-wasting nonsense." The editorial did not mention Ferguson but instead referred to a bill proposed in the state Legislature.
"The CFR agenda has been since 1921 to merge the United States into a world government," Ferguson said. "I though for years they would use the United Nations as the vehicle, but the U.N. might have been a feint."
He called a potential regional government like a North American Union a stepping-stone to a world government. "Why has George Bush never secured the borders of America?" Ferguson said. "What is his agenda? To erase those borders. It's a very difficult thing because it's being pushed by a Republican president, so Republicans are going to be reluctant to believe it."He proposed that all illegal immigrants be forced to register with the government. Undesirables and those who don't register would be deported. Those allowed to stay, Ferguson said, should be given a high-tech ankle bracelet so they can be identified by satellite.