OREM U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon squeaked into another GOP primary Saturday, as his 3rd Congressional District delegates almost voted him out of office during the state Republican convention.
Cannon, R-Utah, will face Jason Chaffetz, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s former chief of staff, who got 59 percent of the delegate vote coming within a few votes of eliminating Cannon and winning the party nomination outright.
Former GOP Congressman Merrill Cook, as he has before, failed to get out of a state GOP convention. The loss ended his attempt to reclaim his old 2nd Congressional District seat.
"This is our process," a disappointed Cannon said just before the final round of voting. Since he's had primaries before, Cannon said, "Yeah, I'm kind of used to it. But it is frustrating. The only way not (to have a party primary to go without a convention) is to become an independent. But I'm a Republican."
Chaffetz said: "We're just thrilled to walk out of here dominating at the convention. It's just unbelievable."
According to the Utah GOP state convention Web site, Chaffetz received 563 delegate votes to Cannon's 391.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, said Saturday that he will run for re-election in 2010. He would be 83 at the end of what would be his fourth sixth-year term should he win again.
"I feel good and believe I'm still in good with the Utah Republican Party."
Still, seeing Cannon struggling in Saturday's convention at Utah Valley State College, Bennett wondered out loud if any federal officeholder would find much luck against GOP state delegates many of whom are arch-conservatives who seem displeased with all members of Congress.
The dislike for Cannon was palpable. Just before the final round of voting, as Cannon walked down to the convention floor with David Leavitt who threw his support to Cannon after being eliminated in the second round of voting Cannon was booed by a number of delegates, with some yelling for him to just leave.
"We had a lot of mad people" at the convention, Cannon said. "I was surprised by the ferocity" of the Chaffetz supporters, he added.
Cook fell to political newcomer Bill Dew, a millionaire homebuilder who will be the GOP nominee to face U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, this November.
Cook said he will stick with the Republican Party (he's run as an independent in other races) and endorse Dew, although Cook didn't give Dew much of a chance against the popular Matheson.
"I would have been the candidate who would have had a chance against Matheson," Cook said.
Nearly 3,300 state GOP delegates voted on a number of congressional, state and legislative candidates and picked the delegates to the national convention and the national committeeman and committeewoman.
As expected, GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. won re-nomination. Unopposed were Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and Auditor Austin Johnson. In the open state treasurer's seat, state Rep. Mark Walker, R-Sandy, will battle Richard Ellis, current chief deputy treasurer, in a primary.
Cannon's poor showing in the state convention is becoming a biennial event for the six-term congressman. This will be his fifth GOP primary in seven elections. He first took office in 1996 in what is considered one of the most conservative congressional districts in the U.S.
As was the case Saturday, Cannon finished second in the 2006 convention but went on to an easy primary victory over John Jacobs.
Chaffetz gave an emotional convention speech that brought a number of the 3rd District delegates to their feet cheering. He broke from Huntsman (Chaffetz was Huntsman's 2004 campaign manager and chief of staff during his first year in office) when he shouted that Huntsman was wrong about global warming saying that global warming "is a farce."
He said both Cannon and Leavitt were running campaigns in debt and that he wouldn't do that. Saying he was outspent by both men, he would appeal to the better natures of Republicans and always stand up for their conservative values.
Commenting on Leavitt's endorsement of Cannon which Cannon said put him into the primary Chaffetz said: "It's just the good ol' boys, the good ol' boys' business as usual. We're going to change the Utah Republican Party" by defeating a well-financed incumbent in the primary, Chaffetz said.
Chaffetz said illegal immigration must stop, and that English must become the official language of the country. He said he is a convert to the LDS religion and a convert to the Republican Party, and that he comes to politics with a zeal that some incumbent Republicans have forgotten about.
Chaffetz planned all along to eliminate Cannon in the convention by getting 60 percent of the vote. But after losing the nomination outright by just a few delegate votes, he said: "It's a heartbreaker but still thrilling. A win is a win, and we live to see another day."
In the 2nd Congressional District race, Dew said he has both the cash and thousands of personal and business contacts from his 30 years as a contractor "that I can use to get additional funds and get an army to defeat Jim Matheson."
He said he will fund a high-profile mass-media campaign this summer "to make the name Bill Dew a household name."
U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, caused quite a stir when he said all Utahns need to get behind GOP presidential nominee John McCain. Utahns gave Mitt Romney, a member of the LDS Church, a 90 percent victory Feb. 5. Romney has since dropped out of the race.
The comment was met with scattered boos from the audience, with a mixture of applause. Hatch said if Republicans don't get with McCain, then Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton will win, "and that will be an absolute catastrophe" for America.
After a McCain video ran, a number of delegates shouted for a Ron Paul video, but there was no such video. And most of the slate of 36 McCain national delegates won, even though there was an alternative slate of delegates, many of whom would have voted for Paul on the first ballot at the national convention.
An effort by party leaders to allow the GOP national delegates to put aside Romney's huge (90 percent) win in the Utah and vote for McCain in the first round of voting in the September GOP national convention failed.
Now, all 36 of Utah's national GOP delegates must vote for Romney in the first round. "It might be a little embarrassing to cast our votes for Romney when everyone else voted for McCain" at the national convention, said Utah GOP vice chairman Todd Weiler.
Romney had asked the state party to pass a resolution to switch the state's votes to McCain, but the resolution was postponed indefinitely.
"They're bound to vote for Romney. Whether they vote for Romney is another issue," said Weiler. "I think there will be a lot of temptation" to disregard party rules and vote for McCain (maybe a few for Paul) anyway. When asked what would happen to a delegate who refused to vote for Romney, Weiler said, "We'll find out."
Weiler said the state central committee could vote in June to adopt the McCain resolution and clear up the mess. -->
Several multicounty contested Utah House and Senate races were also decided Saturday. Those results include:
• House District 20, Rep. Paul Neuenschwander, R-Bountiful, has a primary with Becky Edwards.
• House District 54, David Labrum and Kraig Power are in a primary.
• Senate District 13, Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Lehi, won renomination.