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"Considering what's happening in Eastern Europe, isn't it wonderful that we have enjoyed these freedoms for so long. This is what it's all about. We're blessed to enjoy this. Welcome." -Douglas Sonntag opening the Republican Party caucus in his home Monday night.

Candidates throughout Utah are counting today, trying to figure how many county and state party delegates they got Monday evening.Dan Marriott and Genevieve Atwood in the 2nd Congressional District, Jim Hansen and Dub Lawrence in the 1st District, and six Republicans in the 3rd District won't know for sure for several days whom they can count on in the June 16 state GOP convention.

"We'll work to keep the ones we got (Monday night) and try to turn the others," says Marriott.

Democrats, Libertarians and Independent Party and American Party members also gathered Monday evening for their party caucuses.

2nd Congressional District

In the home of Douglas Sonntag, voting District 2308, on the top floor of his condominium overlooking the state Capitol where Sonntag served as a legislator years ago, 16 Republicans gathered.

After the formalities of electing district officers, the meeting came down to Marriott and Atwood, both who want to run against Democratic Rep. Wayne Owens.

"We have to pick someone who can beat Owens. I know Wayne, I like him very much, but he votes as a Democrat in Washington and that doesn't represent me at all," said Rex Hardy. Hardy favors Marriott. "He can raise the money. He has the best chance against Owens."

But the mood of the meeting quickly turned. Atwood, who lives just up the street in the lower Avenues section of Salt Lake City, had certainly done her homework on this caucus. A number of women attended who favored Atwood. So did a whole family who favored the former state legislator and so did Keith Henderson.

"I know Genevieve and she is what this race needs," said Henderson, an attorney who moved from Ogden several years ago. "Marriott has a (congressional) voting record that the Democrats can use against him. Genevieve can take a hard look at Owens' record and have a clean one herself. Genevieve is strong on the environment - she's a geologist - and will take Owens on there as well.

"Yes, there's the question if this state is ready to elect a woman to Congress. One never knows, but I think this is the time," said Henderson.

"But Marriott can raise the money needed to beat Owens," said Hardy. "He's won this seat in Congress before, and he could go back again. I don't know Genevieve Atwood. I've never heard of her before. I'm not pro or against anyone. I want to beat Owens, we have to beat this man."

The debate went on for twenty minutes - Marriott or Atwood. Finally, the Republicans decided to "instruct" whomever they picked as their state delegate on how he or she should vote. Atwood won 11 to five over Marriott. Sonntag, a national GOP delegate in 1988, was chosen the district delegate. He promised to vote for Atwood.

No doubt Marriott - who seeks to eliminate Atwood at the state convention - won the day in other caucus meetings. "But I feel great," said Atwood Tuesday. "I think we'll get enough to make it out of the convention."

About 1,200 delegates were picked Monday evening in the 2nd Congressional District. Now the well-known Marriott and the lesser-known Atwood will vie for those votes.

3rd Congressional District

In Utah County, 3rd District congressional candidates agreed that the race to replace Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, is still an open one and that it's time to shift campaigns into high gear.

Candidates Karl Snow and Steve Densley, who led the pack in the latest Deseret News/KSL poll, expressed optimism Monday night following neighborhood caucuses.

"At this point, it's Snow or me," said Densley, Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce president. "But it's still an open race. I think a good portion of them (delegates) are uncommitted."

Snow, a Brigham Young University administrator who served as a state senator from 1972-84, said preliminary reports on delegate selections are favorable. He said he feels the apparent large percentage of uncommitted delegates gives him an edge in the race.

"I think we're clearly out in front, and we want to continue with that stance by letting people know what we stand for," Snow said.

1st Congressional District

At a GOP caucus in Farmington, Hansen's hometown, he carried the day over Lawrence, winning the lone state delegate slot. Hansen wants to eliminate Lawrence, a Davis County commissioner, in the state convention.

At a Layton caucus, two state delegates were picked, one for Hansen and one uncommitted. Hansen was in Washington, D.C. Monday. His campaign manager, Peter Jenks, said the Hansen campaign was not out gauging support during the political caucuses Monday night.

"We're pretty sure of his support throughout the district. It's very strong. We're confident that we'll get 70 percent or more of the votes in the convention. The Congressman's strength will carry the day," said Jenks.

Acknowledging the difficulty of running against an incumbent, Lawrence was out late Monday, visiting several caucuses in Davis County. "I'm curious to see what the instructions are. Hopefully, (the voting district chairpersons) will recognize that the system allows for challengers within the party."

While many attended in Salt Lake, Utah and Davis counties and throughout the state, that wasn't the case everywhere.

In the West Jordan home of Democratic Utah House Rep. Kelly Atkinson, Atkinson didn't even attend the caucus hosted by his wife. Penny Atkinson, who was the only one home when a Deseret News reporter called, said she'd get on the phone and try to get some Democrats to be district officers.

900501 MASSM SCOTTY;05/01,16:03 METROVERSION Meetings: Residents gather in homes to choose delegates to county, state conventions. ~

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