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Primary lessons
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It is no surprise that Orrin Hatch won the Republican Party's nomination for a seventh term in the U.S. Senate. If you can't win a primary election with 36 years of seniority and a $10 million war chest behind you, there's something seriously amiss. In Hatch's case, there was nothing amiss. Hatch has been a conservative stalwart his entire career and closely attuned to the views of his Utah constituents. The only ones who appeared to believe otherwise were his opponent, Dan Liljenquist, and the tea party.

Hatch learned the lesson of former Sen. Bob Bennett, who was drowned by the tea party tsunami two years ago in the Republican state convention. Hatch campaigned hard, concentrating on Republican convention delegates. When he came up a few dozen votes short of avoiding a primary at the convention, he turned his attention to Republican primary voters. In the end, he swamped Liljenquist, who is a bright, articulate candidate and a policy wonk, but who could not match Hatch's money or name recognition.

If this signals the ebb of the tea party tide, that would be good, if only because its adherents tend to be bitter ideologues who can't do the business of governing, which is compromise.

Elsewhere down the Republican ticket, John Swallow overwhelmed Sean Reyes in the nasty attorney general's race. The petty charges and countercharges in this campaign may have set a new low.

Auston Johnson narrowly lost his party's nomination to continue as state auditor. That's unfortunate, because challenger John Dougall is not a certified public accountant and so is not professionally qualified for the job.

In the contest for the Salt Lake County mayor's nomination, former County Councilman Mark Crockett clipped West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder in a nail-biter that could be recounted. Winder's misadventures under the pseudonym Richard Burwash may have derailed his candidacy.

In the only congressional primary, Park City's Donna McAleer trounced Ryan Combe of South Ogden for the Democrats' nomination in the 1st District.

Oh, yeah. That guy Romney ran away with Utah's Republican nomination for president. Who would have guessed?

Arguably, though, the biggest player in the primary election campaign wasn't a candidate. It was unregulated, often undisclosed money — millions of dollars — from so-called super PACs (political action committees). Utah got its first taste of how that can affect elections, and it was revolting. This is no way to run democratic elections.

Tea party ebbs; money flows
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