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Utah 3: Cannon Defeated in Primary

June 25, 2008 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin

Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT3) lost his Republican primary to first-time candidate Jason Cheffetz, a former campaign manager and aide to Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. (R) by a twenty-point margin.  Rep. Cannon has been the target of national anti-immigration advocacy groups because of his moderate views on immigration.  Over the last two election cycles they have been going after him and they will no doubt be crowing about his defeat.

Rep. Cannon is Member of Congress who, breaking with most of his Party, seems to get the idea that a legal immigration system that works and allows hard-working immigrants to contribute to the economy above board is a good thing; that policies that put immigration back on the foundations of law and order should be the goal; and that the cheap politics of immigrant bashing is neither effective nor constructive.  It appears even his opponent learned that immigrant bashing is not the most effective tool in the arsenal for getting elected. According to Congressional Quarterly (CQ Politics),

Chaffetz did not make immigration the centerpiece of his attacks on Cannon, as previous primary challengers in 2006 and 2004 had done.

Chaffetz went after Cannon for approving Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program that expanded the federal government’s oversight of local school systems, something Chaffetz said a “true” conservative would never support. He said he would advocate repealing the law and favors abolishing the U.S. Department of Education, arguing, “The federal government should not be in the public education business.”

He also criticized Cannon for supporting the 2003 measure that greatly expanded Medicare by creating a prescription drug benefit program, and associated the incumbent with what he described as fiscal irresponsibility practiced by Congress.

And while he did not make immigration the central issue of his campaign, as did challenger Jacob in 2006, Chaffetz did echo the well-aired arguments made by critics of the congressman’s position. – “Utah GOP Rep. Cannon Defeated in Primary,” Michael Teitelbaum, CQ Politics, June 25, 2008

There appears to be more going on with this race than just the immigration issue.  Cannon is the latest of three incumbent Members of Congress to be defeated in a primary.  He joins Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) and Rep. Albert Wynn (D-MD) who lost primaries earlier this year.  Rep. Wynn resigned his seat and was replaced by newly minted Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), the woman who defeated him in the February primary, who won a special election June 17 in the heavily African-American District 4.  Edwards, we should note, is an outspoken supporter of comprehensive immigration reform.

Rep. Cannon doesn’t seem to have done very well turning out his base and using the power of incumbency in a year that is shaping up to be a tough one for incumbents, regardless of party and certainly, regardless of holding mainstream views on immigration.

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