SANDY — Congressman Rob Bishop, R-Brigham City, did what most candidates couldn’t do Saturday at the Republican State Convention — avoid a primary decisively.
Bishop easily held off the challenges of Leonard Fabiano and Jacqueline Smith in his bid to represent the newly-
reconfigured District 1, gaining over 81.1 percent of the vote to gain a spot on the GOP ballot in November. A candidate needed 60 percent of the delegate vote to avoid a primary.
By contrast, an 11 person race for the District 2 seat being vacated by Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson as he runs in a new district went three lively rounds before Chris Stewart emerged as the party’s nominee.
The race took on a circus-
like atmosphere in the second round as the candidates traded charges about a last-minute mailer to delegates. Eureka Mayor Milt Hanks alleged four candidates had conspired to drop negative information about Stewart, a Farmington resident, which created a lot of sparks in the next round.
The mailer gave reasons why delegates should not vote for Chris Stewart and asked questions about Stewart’s military record. The mailer did not have a return address.
The mailer also referenced the “temple mailer” that cast Sen. Mike Lee in a bad light at the last minute in 2010, which reportedly was eventually traced back to the brother of congressional candidate Chris Stewart, said Cherilyn Eagar, one of the congressional candidates. Eagar bristled at the suggestion she had any link to the mailer.
Several of the candidates also used the one minute of time allotted for second round speeches to resign from the race, reducing the race to six candidates. At least two of the candidates had the microphone turned off when trying to address the issue with Stewart.
Candidate Chuck Williams, a former Air Force officer, levied the key salvo in the round-two controversy.
“I know what makes a good officer. Chris Stewart is a bold-faced liar, whether you like it or not,” Williams said before his mike was shut off. When the mike was turned on, he resigned from the race and threw his support behind David Clark, who made it to the third round in the race before being eliminated.
The campaign speeches for the 2nd Congressional District were held in a room adjacent to the main hall, then moved to the main hall for round two, leaving many of the assembled delegates puzzled at the nature of the charges and what was happening.
Several delegates pushed for an investigation into what was going on in the race and asked for full disclosure.
“The last thing the party wants to do is referee something like that,” State Party Chairman Thomas Wright said of the matter.
Stewart insisted he had run a clean campaign and was a candidate with integrity.
“There is nothing in my life that would lead anyone to believe that some of the things said about me today are true. As I’ve said from the very beginning, the only important issue facing us today is to save our nation,” Stewart said.
By contrast, the race for the 1st Congressional District was without controversy. Bishop didn’t make a big deal of the margin of his victory.
“If I got 60.1 percent, I’d be pleased,” Bishop said of the win. In a day when the U.S. Senate, state auditor and attorney general races were relegated to a primary, only Congressman Jason Chaffetz came close to Bishop’s final tally. Chaffetz’s nomination bid was eight percentage points behind the Top of Utah lawmaker.
The former school teacher gave a six-minute stump speech during the convention, which resonated some common themes he has pushed during his time in Congress.
“I take the Constitution seriously, and I recognize the founding fathers’ vision of federalism is the solution to our problems,” Bishop said. He touted his voting record in opposing the initiatives pushed by President Barack Obama.
The Congressional Quarterly showed he was the No. 1 representative in opposing Obama’s bills, with a 90.3 percent vote against the Democratic president.
“From now until January, when Obama hands the keys to President Mitt Romney, I am going to continue to vote that same way,” Bishop said.