Utah an Early Test on Immigration
For political observers searching for clues about the influence of immigration on the Republican electorate, today's Utah primary should provide some insight.
Not known for its competitive elections, Utah is hosting the marquee primary of the day between 3rd district Rep. Chris Cannon (R) and real estate developer John Jacob (R). Jacob has made the campaign a referendum on immigration, arguing that although Cannon voted for the more strict House immigration bill, his willingness to compromise on a guest-worker provision, which is favored by President Bush, makes him out-of-step with the Republican base.
"Immigration is at the forefront and [this race] is going to have national repercussions," said Hayden Hill, a spokeswoman for Jacob.
While Utah is the best race of the day, there are several runoffs to watch as well. In South Carolina, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer (R) faces off against Mike Campbell, the son of the late Palmetto State Gov. Carroll Campbell (R).
Read on for the need-to-know information on today's primaries and runoffs:
Utah's 3rd district: For the second cycle in a row Cannon faces a serious primary challenge from a candidate attacking his stance on immigration. In 2004, Cannon defeated former state Rep. Matt Throckmorton 58 percent to 42 percent in the primary. Jacob's challenge is significantly stronger. At the state convention last month, the challenger received 52 percent of the delegates' votes to 48 percent for Cannon. (In 2004, Cannon won 57 percent of the convention vote -- just missing the 60 percent necessary to avoid a primary altogether.)
Two polls have been released in recent days. The first, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates for the Deseret Morning News, showed Cannon with a 46 percent to 33 percent edge. A Mason-Dixon survey for the Salt Lake Tribune showed a tighter race with Cannon ahead 44 percent to 41 percent among likely voters but has Jacob ahead 45 percent to 44 percent lead with the sample stripped down to definite voters.
Both polls show that immigration is the dominant issue of the campaign. Ninety-one percent of voters in the Mason-Dixon poll said that immigration was either a very or somewhat important issue. A whopping 97 percent of likely Jacob voters said immigration was an important issue for them.
In the Dan Jones poll, voters were split on the best solutuion for the immigration problem. Forty-seven percent favored a plan that would enforce the existing immigration laws but also offer a path for citizenship for illegals; 44 percent baced enforcement alone. The former option more closely tracks with Cannon's position; the latter with Jacob's.
Cannon has raised and spent more money on the race but Jacob's personal wealth has kept him competitive. Through June 7, Cannon had brought in $678,000, disbursed $617,000 and had $91,000 in the bank. Jacob had raised $350,000 ($328,000 of which came from his own pocket), spent $346,000 and ended the period with just $3,500 on hand. He donated another $60,000 to the contest on June 24.
While low turnout typically favors the incumbent, the reverse is actually true here. The most devoted voters in GOP primaries tend to be the most conservative on most issues -- including immigration. The fact that only Republicans can vote in today's primary means that conservatives should comprise a large part of the electorate, giving Jacob a real chance. (The challenger has hurt his chances in the race's final days, however, blaming some bad business deals on none other than Satan.) If Cannon loses, House members' opposition to a compromise immigration deal will likely harden as they become more fearful of angering their base.
South Carolina Lt. Gov: Campbell, who carries perhaps the most famous last name in South Carolina Republican politics, led incumbent Andre Bauer in the primary 45 percent to 37 percent. Bauer's campaign has been riddled by bad luck, including revelations about being stopped twice for speeding and a plane crash on May 23 that has left him hobbled for the runoff. Bauer and a co-pilot crashed his single engine plane into power lines while attempting to take off from an airport in Blacksburg. Bauer is now in physical therapy for a leg injury. There's an interesting surrogate fight under way in this race as well. Rep. Joe Wilson (R) is backing Bauer while South Carolina First Lady Jenny Sanford is with Campbell.
Another race with major implications for the future of South Carolina politics is the contest for state Treasurer, where wealthy developer and top primary finisher, Thomas Ravenel (R), must face the fourth place finisher today because no candidate got more than 50 percent of the vote (the second and third place finishers dropped out after Ravenel's strong 48 percent finish). Ravenel, the son of former Rep. Arthur Ravenel (R-S.C.), has said publicly he is interested in challenging Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) in 2008. Ravenel ran a strong campaign for Senate in 2004, narrowly missing a spot in the runoff, which was won by Sen. Jim DeMint.
Alabama Lt. Gov.: (It has been pointed out to The Fix that the Alabama legislature recently changed the date of the state's runoff from June 27 to July 18 in response to a lawsuit from the U.S. Justice Department who said that the three weeks between primary and runoff was not enough time for military personnel living overseas to cast absentee ballots. We stand corrected.)
Strange shocked the political establishment by winning 48 percent in the primary, 14 points better than Wallace Jr.. Wallace has won the support of the third and fourth place finishers, giving him a glimmer of hope to turn around the primary results. This race has implications on the 2008 presidential race as Arizona Sen. John McCain has endorsed and stumped with Wallace. McCain's Straight Talk America PAC has also begun making donations in Alabama, which recently moved up the date of its 2008 presidential primary.
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