Cannon advances to Republican primary by slim margin
Posted: 7:36 PM- OREM - Rep. Chris Cannon barely escaped with his political life Saturday.
Jason Chaffetz, a former chief of staff to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., nearly knocked off the incumbent in the Republican State Convention, but instead will face Cannon in a June 24 primary.
"A win is a win," said Chaffetz. "We're going to go out and take it to Cannon right from Day 1."
Chaffetz captured 563 Republican delegate votes, or 59 percent of the total. Cannon received votes from 391 delegates, 41 percent of the total. Chaffetz could have captured the nomination outright with 60 percent of the vote - a 10-vote swing.
"Utah has a very interesting political system. We love it. A guy can get 600 people to vote for him and he can be a congressman," said Cannon who said he will run on his record of getting things done for Utah.
Cannon received the endorsement of David Leavitt, who was eliminated in the second round of balloting. He is the former Juab County attorney and brother of former governor and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt.
"We did not expect this. We expected Leavitt to come out ahead, but it's better to be in a primary with Chaffetz than Leavitt," Cannon said, because Leavitt has more name recognition and money than Chaffetz.
Before the final vote, Leavitt's staffers in orange shirts carried Cannon signs up and down the aisles of the convention hall - likely a violation of the convention rules, drawing lusty boos from Chaffetz supporters.
"You're that desperate Chris Cannon? You're that desperate? That's garbage!" delegate Rich Kuchinsky shouted at Cannon, as state Sen. Howard Stephenson yelled at the volunteers to remove the signs from the polling area.
Cannon said the signs were being carried by young Leavitt supporters who were eager to show their support and unaware of the rules.
Later, Leavitt appeared alongside Cannon to wave and shake hands, and they were again booed loudly as delegates shouted "Get out of here!"
Leavitt said he endorsed Canon because he was the best candidate left in the race.
"I think Chris Cannon was more of a statesman than Jason Chaffetz."
Chaffetz dismissed the endorsement as a case of "the good ol' boys doing their backroom deals. ... I stand against all that that represents."
In the other contested congressional race of the day, Bill Dew won the nomination in the 2nd District, after capturing 69 percent of the delegate vote to defeat former Congressman Merrill Cook in a third round of balloting.
Dew will face a fierce fight against four-term Democratic incumbent Rep. Jim Matheson, a centrist who enjoys broad approval in a district that spans the lower third of the state and reaches up to include a big portion of Salt Lake County.
"He seems like the most reasonable candidate, the most likely to be able to compete against Matheson," said Richard Abbott, a Draper delegate.
In a state Treasurer's race that turned bitter near the end, state Rep. Mark Walker scooped up 58 percent of the delegate vote - just short of the 60 percent mark needed to eliminate deputy Treasurer Richard Ellis.
Walker's backers took exception at a leaflet Ellis passed out at the convention, saying that Walker was unemployed. He recently left his job at Zions Bank. Ellis objected to a last-minute letter sent to delegates in which Rep. Greg Hughes, a Walker backer, blasts Ellis as opposing smaller government.
Becky Edwards, the daughter-in-law of former Brigham Young football coach LaVell Edwards, forced Rep. Paul Neuenschwander into a primary, receiving 40.38 percent of the vote and escaping elimination by a single vote.
Edwards told delegates she would "represent the voters in this district, not special interests," and pointed to an omnibus education bill, passed during the last legislative session, that rolled together a number of controversial measures, some that had been voted down previously, as an example of the "arrogance" of legislators.
In House District 54, David Labrum and Kraig Powell will meet in a primary to be the Republican candidate to replace retiring Rep. Gordon Snow.
Huntsman easily won the Republican nomination, and Sens. Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, and Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, and Rep. Curt Oda, R-Ogden, also avoided primaries.
The convention did not vote on a measure that would have released the delegation chosen to represent the state at the Republican National Convention to vote for whomever they wish. Currently, the delegates are bound to vote for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.