Leavitt Explains Last-Minute Alliance With Cannon

Posted May 14, 2008 at 6:41pm

David Leavitt (R), who had campaigned hard this cycle against Rep. Chris Cannon (R), released a statement Wednesday evening explaining why he unexpectedly endorsed the Congressman at Saturday’s state party convention after being eliminated from the race.

Cannon was saved from being ousted from his seat at the convention by Leavitt’s timely endorsement, which brought over enough delegates to Cannon to send the race to a June primary.

The move by Leavitt, the brother of former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt (R), did not sit well with supporters of Jason Chaffetz, the former chief of staff to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. (R). Chaffetz finished first in the 3rd district convention balloting and came within 10 delegate votes of winning the party nomination outright on Saturday.

Chaffetz suporters have since claimed that David Leavitt broke party rules by sending supporters to the convention floor carrying Cannon signs. They also say Cannon and Leavitt broke party rules when they sought to personally influence delegates on the convention floor.

David Leavitt finished third in the balloting Saturday and was eliminated before the final vote.

On Monday, Chaffetz described the “deal” that was struck by Cannon and Leavitt as “the good old boys trying to take care of themselves.”

Leavitt, who many Utah GOP insiders expected to finish ahead of Chaffetz at the convention and who had campaigned on an anti-incumbent message, said that after his 10 months in the race he came to the conclusion that Chaffetz would be a worse choice for the seat than Cannon.

“Accordingly, I let my voice be heard in the best possible manner available to me within the rules of the state convention,” he said.

Leavitt said that in conferring with Utah State Republican Chairman Stan Lockhart, “it was determined that we violated no rules by instructing our young campaign staff members to carry Chris Cannon signs on the floor of the convention, nor was walking onto the floor with Mr. Cannon a violation. … I stand by my decision to endorse Mr. Cannon and wish him luck in the upcoming primary election.”