1 of 2
Jason Chaffetz

Heard much about the 3rd Congressional District GOP primary election, now just 2 1/2 weeks away?

If you have, you must have your ear very close to the political grapevine.

Quiet has been the theme between Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, and Jason Chaffetz, who face each other in the June 24 runoff.

"I have done a little TV and radio (advertisements)," says Chaffetz, a former chief of staff to GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. who barely failed to knock Cannon out of office in last month's state Republican Party convention.

The 3rd District "is the only primary anyone cares about, so it is up to me to get out the vote, and that's want I'm doing all day, every day," adds Chaffetz. (A post-convention poll for the Deseret News and KSL-TV showed the men neck and neck among 3rd District voters.)

There are not even any public debates planned between the two men.

Both will appear on KBYU and KUED for debates, and also one radio talk show. But that's it for joint appearances, said Ryan Frandsen, Cannon's campaign manager.

Cannon just started running his first TV spot, a short advertisement where Cannon lauds his actions on several important issues before Congress.

Cannon is just now turning his attention to the primary — having been in Congress the past several weeks. He attended an energy seminar Tuesday in Richfield. But his campaign Web site (chriscannon.com) doesn't list any public activities between now and June 24 — although certainly some will be added in the coming days.

Both men have interactive Web sites, although Cannon's appears to be more high-tech. You can watch several short videos where Cannon talks about issues, and what he says are his opponents' attempts to mislead voters.

On Chaffetz's Web site (jasonforcongress.com) one can view Chaffetz TV and radio spots and watch a replay of his state GOP convention speech — a speech that probably helped him almost remove Cannon from office.

Besides his regular Web site, Cannon has also started another site — thetruthaboutchriscannon.com — aimed at blunting "lies, name calling ... and plain falsehoods" that Cannon says have been spread by his opponents, both this year and in the past.

So far, at least, the candidates' online sites and town meetings have taken the place of the more traditional big-ticket media campaigns.

Two years ago, millionaire John Jacob got into a GOP primary with Cannon. And Jacob's was a high-profile primary campaign, much TV and radio, billboards and so on, mostly funded by half a million dollars out of his own pocket.

In addition, several outside anti-illegal immigrant groups came into the 3rd District primary that year, spending money against Cannon but also raising the primary's profile among voters. Those groups, so far, have stayed out this year.

"I've accepted a few thousand dollars in contributions from those groups — like the Team America PAC and an endorsement by Bay Buchanan," said Chaffetz. "But I've told anyone who will listen that I don't want those independent campaigns coming in this time."

Cannon ended up winning the 2006 primary after Jacob basically self-destructed, at one point saying that Satan was against him because Jacob couldn't liquidate some of his assets fast enough to spend the money in the six-week primary campaign.

Chaffetz is running a slimmed down primary. He doesn't have a campaign office, and his campaign phone is his cell phone.

"My campaign is basically being run by volunteer stay-at-home moms and retirees out of their homes — no paid campaign staff at all," he said. "This is really a grass-roots affair, like my convention fight."

Chaffetz probably would have defeated Cannon at the convention, but in the last round of voting, David Leavitt, who placed third, endorsed Cannon. That brought over just enough delegates to get Cannon into the primary.

Chaffetz ran Huntsman's successful 2004 election campaign. And there was more than enough money in that high-profile race. Not so for Chaffetz this time around.

"We're going to turn out" the voters one person at a time, Chaffetz said. While you may see a few Chaffetz TV and radio spots (those that have run are brief bios of the candidate), Chaffetz said he doesn't have the money to run a full-blown TV campaign.

While the convention battle at times got a bit ugly, Chaffetz says the primary won't.

"We won't get entangled in the cat fights you've seen before" among 3rd District Republicans. "We'll both act professionally and then just let people vote."


E-mail: [email protected]