Most Utahns can go to the polls today to vote in a statewide GOP treasurer's race, while 3rd Congressional District voters have a high-profile Republican primary.
Republicans and political independents can vote in a GOP primary, as long as independents register as a Republican at the polling place. Although voters registered with another party cannot switch their registration on Election Day, every registered voter can cast a ballot in a nonpartisan school board election, should there be one in your area.
Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, faces the primary fight of his political career against Jason Chaffetz, the former chief of staff to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., in the 3rd District.
In the statewide treasurer's race, chief deputy treasurer Richard Ellis faces state Rep. Mark Walker, R-Sandy.
A pre-primary poll conducted last week by Dan Jones & Associates for the Deseret News and KSL-TV found that the Cannon-Chaffetz race is up for grabs nearly tied and within the poll's margin of error while nearly half of all Utahns had no preference between Ellis and Walker.
There are also party primaries in a few legislative races, county council and commission contests. And the Jordan School District residents have final elections for the new east-side district and the old west-side district school board members. The Salt Lake City School District and Granite School District have primaries to whittle multicandidate fields down to two for each seat, who will then be voted on in November.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today. Final, but unofficial, results will be in Wednesday's Deseret News and online at deseretnews.com.
Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen worried that voter turnout in Salt Lake County would be low despite multiple school board races, the treasurer's race and, for voters in much of the west side of the county, the 3rd District race.
"Unfortunately, I think we will have voter turnout of only between 7 percent and 9 percent," said Swensen. "And that is a shame."
In a way, a low primary turnout may help Chaffetz, who has greatly been outspent by Cannon since the May state Republican convention where Chaffetz fell just nine votes short of eliminating Cannon and winning the GOP nomination outright.
"My grass-roots voter turnout effort will win this for me," Chaffetz told the Deseret News over the weekend. He said he has "thousands" of volunteers who are getting out the vote for him their commitment is one reason he almost beat Cannon in the state GOP convention.
Cannon also has a voter turnout campaign. He had several former and current GOP politicians in an auto-calling message going into targeted households. Cannon had former 3rd District GOP candidate David Leavitt, eliminated in this year's GOP convention, in an auto-calling message, as well as former 3rd District candidate Matt Throckmorton, whom Cannon defeated four years ago. Cannon also had state Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, and Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, doing auto-dialing in parts of Utah County.
"We've I.D.'d many people as our supporters," Ryan Frandsen, Cannon's campaign manager, said Monday. "We're calling them, asking them to go out and vote."
Cannon is taking Chaffetz's challenge seriously, and as of Monday he had received $33,000 in new campaign contributions, partly from special-interest groups, partly from Cannon family members. Chaffetz has raised $4,000 in last-minute contributions.
The treasurer's GOP race has turned bitter.
Ellis says that in March Walker told him, should Walker be elected, he would not fire any of the treasurer's staff, including Ellis. He further claims that Walker offered to give him, as chief deputy treasurer, a raise and that Walker believed he could get that raise approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature, where he serves as a House member.
Ellis said when the job offer/raise was first mentioned, Ellis did not know that there was a law against it. After the offer leaked to the media this spring, Ellis filed a complaint with Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, the state election officer, who later decided not to act on Ellis' complaint against Walker until after the primary. Ellis then took the complaint directly to Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who has endorsed Walker, but no action has been taken yet.
Walker says he did nothing wrong, calling Ellis' "last-minute" complaint "dirty politics." Walker admits he told Ellis that no one in the treasurer's office would be fired, and that included Ellis, to ease the minds of public employees. Walker denies he offered Ellis a raise, even though e-mails have been produced from a go-between indicating that Walker did mention a pay raise.Walker says he will make a complaint against Ellis' campaign tactics to state officials after today's primary.
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