selects Huntsman, Karras
By Bob Bernick Jr. and Jerry D. Spangler
May 9, 2004
Jon Huntsman Jr. led from the first
round of voting and came out of the state GOP convention
Saturday night — as many insiders expected. But he's matched
against a different opponent than many anticipated — Board
of Regents chairman Nolan Karras, a former speaker of the Utah
Not known for his wide grins,
Karras was all smiles — and his supporters were shouting
madly — as party chairman Joe Cannon called Karras' name
after nearly four hours of vote counting to winnow the field
down from eight candidates.
And the closeness of the race
— 51 percent of the 3,500 delegates voted for Huntsman to
Karras' 49 percent — was a surprise too.
But the day also was full of
Gov. Olene Walker was knocked
out of contention. Utah's first female governor is the first
sitting chief executive to lose an election bid in 48 years.
"It's some relief to be
going back to just being the governor," said Walker.
"I would not have done anything different. I am just
delighted I have a few more months to be governor."
And Merit Medical CEO Fred
Lampropoulos spent more than $2 million of his own cash only
to lose. Lampropoulos' fall was quick. He was considered
nearly a shoo-in only days ago. As late as Friday,
Lampropoulos was running radio advertisements saying
"I'll see you in the primary."
It wasn't to be.
"I don't feel bad,"
said Lampropoulos, who finished third. "I'm going home
and finish the back yard at our new house and have a swimming
party. I am fine, and it was fun."
Another shocker was four-term
Rep. Chris Cannon, forced into a primary with former Utah
House member Matt Throckmorton in the 3rd Congressional
Not unexpected were the 2nd
District results: Another match-up — maybe as bitter as
before — between John Swallow and Tim Bridgewater for the
chance to challenge incumbent Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson.
The convention marked the end
of political comeback hopes — at least for now — for
several other former elected officials. Former Utah House GOP
heavyweights Mel Brown and Byron Harward both failed in their
bids to return to the Legislature.
Former U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen,
who retired after 22 years in Congress only to resurface as a
GOP contender in the governor's race, finished sixth out of
the eight gubernatorial candidates — the first political
race he's ever lost. He told delegates during the campaign
that if he lost he would not run again.
And Utahns won't have current
House Speaker Marty Stephens anymore. Stephens, who many
considered a gubernatorial front-runner last summer, stumbled
too, finishing fifth.
In the end, Walker's bid to be
the first elected woman governor was sunk by a number of
factors. She admits her vetoes of two controversial bills was
unpopular among some GOP delegates. And her late entry in the
race left her scrambling for campaign staff and money. And
there was the inescapable reality that some delegates say she
was too moderate.
But her campaign may have been
the critical factor that pushed her good friend Karras into
the primary runoff with Huntsman. Under the "instant
runoff balloting" used at the convention, most of
Walker's support shifted to Karras once she dropped off after
the fifth round of voting. That support shot Karras past
Lampropoulos into the second primary slot.
Lampropoulos and Karras were
running neck and neck throughout the first six rounds of
voting. That is until 65 percent of Walker's support shifted
Walker would not say whether
she endorses Karras, only that he was her friend.
Lampropoulos says there is
"no question" he was the target of last-minute
rumor-mongering that hurt his front-runner status, but he was
philosophical about the loss and considers himself wiser for
the experience, refusing to blame the rumors for his loss.
"If I decide to run again,
maybe the rumors and questions would be behind us," he
said. "But I am not upset. It is the way the process
Karras, meanwhile, was basking
in the win and pondering the thought of facing off against
Huntsman, another millionaire. But the convention, Karras
said, "proves that money doesn't do it all. Fred's a
wonderful guy (but) he spent a lot of money and comes away
empty-handed. And I don't mean that in any mean way. At some
point, money doesn't work. Frankly, we'll just go with the
people who know what it is like to make a mortgage
Karras said it was his speech
at the convention that put him over the top. "I think
some people were waiting to see if we had the energy to go
against a primary or against Matheson in the fall. And I think
we laid those fears away."
Huntsman said he was not
disappointed by the narrow win. "All along we just wanted
to get out (of convention)," he said. "I'll be
saying the same things over the next 10 months. We're going to
work hard. It's not the money (you spend), its how hard you
work. And that hard work will be more important than the cost
of a primary."
The rematch between Swallow and
Bridgewater was not unexpected. The delegates want desperately
to beat Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson, who beat Swallow by less
than 1 percentage point, less than 2,000 votes, two years ago.
Bridgewater criticized Swallow
for that loss in his speech; as Swallow defended it. More than
42,000 people who voted for Bush in 2000 deserted the
Republican Party two years later and voted for Matheson, said
Bridgewater. "I will bring them home," he said.
Swallow said he is smarter
politically, stronger financially and better prepared now than
in 2002. Matheson won't escape him again. When a hay wagon is
stuck in the mud, "you get it out one bale at a time —
that's what I'm doing in this campaign."
When you lose a close fight,
"do you give up? Or do you come back and finish the
job," Swallow said, comparing himself in his pre-speech
video to Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.
After hearing the vote results,
Swallow said he has $300,000 in cash and will spend what he
has to in the six-week primary. "With my strong funding
base, I can go back to them in the primary, again in the final
against Matheson," Swallow said. He added that a recent
poll had him 51-11 percent over Bridgewater among Republicans.
"We're in good shape."
Bridgewater said he'll win this
primary. "I'll convince the Republican voters to give me
the same support as the delegates did."
Bridgewater bested Swallow in
the convention 54-46 percent.
Cannon said he was disappointed
to face another primary — his second in four re-elections.
"A lot of money has come into this race from out of state
— all over the misinterpreted phrase 'amnesty,' "
Cannon said after it was announced that he fell just short of
60 percent and would face Throckmorton, who campaigned against
Cannon's stands on immigration.
Now more will come in the
primary, he added. "We'll raise the money we need to get
our message out."
But this primary will be
tougher than the one he faced in 1998, when an unknown and
under-funded Republican running from Cannon's right forced the
incumbent into a primary.
"My opponent then had no
money. (Throckmorton) will see a lot of money and (benefit)
from the distortion" of Cannon's stands on immigration
policy, Cannon said. "That was the only issue
(Throckmorton) and these outside groups that support him
Throckmorton said his primary
election budget is $350,000, of which only $150,000 will be
cash. The rest will be in-kind donations from individuals and
organizations, he said.
"I don't have a lot of
money to throw around," he said. "It's been an
uphill battle to get this far."
Throckmorton said he will focus
on immigration reform and opposition to No Child Left Behind
— the same two issues he used to get into the primary. But
he will also add the outsourcing of American jobs and the
growing federal debt to the debate.
Finally, while candidate after
candidate slapped Bush's No Child Left Behind federal
education program, the delegates themselves never got a chance
to vote against it.
Two resolutions criticized the
federally mandated program. But after several long,
troublesome convention votes, delegates were clearly fed up
with the platform, party constitution and resolution
discussions. And they voted to put off most of the items until
the 2005 Republican convention.
They also killed a proposed
party constitutional change that would have allowed future
delegates to call back the two finalists and have one last
head-to-head vote to see if one could get 60 percent of the
vote and avoid a primary.
Delegates didn't even debate a
proposed constitutional change that would have opened the now
closed GOP primaries to unaffiliated voters — those that
belong to no political party.
Two final notes
• Huntsman gets the best
endorsement award. Former President George H.W. Bush, in
Huntsman's pre-speech video, asked Utah delegates to vote for
his former ambassador to Singapore. Huntsman can be trusted,
Bush said. Huntsman aides said the ex-president was approached
by Jon Huntsman Sr. late last year at a Texas chemical
convention, where the elder Bush was the main speaker, and
asked to endorse Huntsman's son. Bush agreed.
• And Enid Greene, Karras'
running mate, got the biggest laugh. Driven from the 2nd
Congressional seat in 1996 after her ex-husband, Joe Waldholtz,
brought political and personal scandal to the then-D.C. power
couple, Greene told the convention: "I chose the wrong
man once. I'm not about to do it again."