Chaffetz Defeats Cannon

Posted June 25, 2008 at 12:12am

After nearly knocking off six-term Rep. Chris Cannon (Utah) at last month’s Republican state convention, former gubernatorial aide Jason Chaffetz finished the job Tuesday night in the 3rd district GOP primary.

And for a race that was expected to be tight, the former chief of staff to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. (R) made it seem easy as he rode his anti-incumbent message to victory.

“We rocked the vote here in Utah and we rocked the Republican Party,” Chaffetz told about 175 supporters gathered to celebrate the victory, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “I think we’ve been given a mandate to return the Republican Party to its core conservative principles.”

With 80 percent reporting, Chaffetz led Cannon 60 percent to 40 percent and is now expected to cruise to a Congressional seat in November since winning the Republican nomination is tantamount to victory in the highly conservative 3rd district.

Tuesday’s primary occurred because no Republican candidate was able to secure 60 percent of the vote at the state’s GOP convention last month. But Chaffetz, whom many pundits predicted would finish third in that race, came incredibly close to locking up the nomination then and there. Cannon earned just 41 percent to Chaffetz’s 59 percent and had Chaffetz obtained just 10 more delegate votes, he would have won the party nomination outright. In the previous cycle, Cannon also came in second in convention balloting but was able to handily defeat his challenger in the Republican primary.

In recent weeks, Cannon had sought to derail Chaffetz’s grass-roots campaign by attacking the former Brigham Young University football star for running against him while living outside the 3rd district. Cannon had called Chaffetz a political opportunist and said he should be running against 2nd district Rep. Jim Matheson (D) rather than seeking an intra-party battle against Cannon. But judging by Tuesday’s results, those attacks didn’t stick.