clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

IT'S BENNETT VS. OWENS; HANSON VS. LEAVITT

Who'd have believed it? Spend more than $4 million of your own money in a primary election race and lose.

But it happened to Joe Cannon on Tuesday, as he dropped a close GOP U.S. Senate primary to Bob Bennett, who spent more than $1.4 million of his own cash - and won.Winning in what was also the state's largest primary in terms of voter turnout - with more than 46 percent voting in Salt Lake County - were Mike Leavitt as Republican nominee for governor; Stewart Hanson, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee; and Wayne Owens, the U.S. Senate Democratic nominee.

There were so many candidates on the ballot you almost needed a player program to know who was running for what. But Utahns rose to the task, turning out in record numbers.

Utah will have its first woman congressional representative in 40 years - Enid Greene won the 2nd Congressional District GOP nomination and will face Democrat Karen Shepherd in the general election Nov. 3. (See related story on A1.)

And Utah will also have its first female statewide officeholder - Leavitt, Hanson and Independent Party gubernatorial candidate Merrill Cook all chose women as lieutenant governor running mates - so one of them will be elected.

Considering that Bennett showed less than 10 percentage points in the polls last spring and squeaked out of the state GOP convention, finishing second to Cannon, his victory Tuesday was sweet revenge.

In the end, spending probably was an issue that harmed Cannon, whose soft, fuzzy TV commercials didn't stack up against Bennett's hard-hitting criticism of Congress and a call for change. Bennett called on Owens to join him in a pledge to spend less money in the final campaign.

Owens said Utahns were sickened by the spending frenzy - more than $8 million spent in the Senate primary, the costliest Senate race per capita in the nation - and he pledged to get out and meet the citizens instead of spending all his time raising funds.

"I had tremendous pressure to run `comparison' ads on Bob," said a tired Cannon early Wednesday. "But we resisted. It's not like Bob is without (political) baggage. But life isn't worth that. I'm a calm man tonight. We ran a good race, we just came up 5,000 votes short."

Hanson's victory over fellow Democrat Pat Shea is a bit of a surprise, especially the size of his win - about the same victory margin as Leavitt's win over intraparty challenger Richard Eyre.

No exit polls were conducted in this primary election, so no one will know for sure what happened in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. But most guess Shea was sunk by a significant turnout of pro-choice advocates. Hanson was the only pro-choice candidate in the major races Tuesday. If a woman's right to choose an abortion was the issue for you, you had only one place to go - Hanson. Shea, a practicing Catholic, was a pro-life candidate who took a moderate stand on many issues, and it clearly cost him among loyal Democratic voters.

Hanson admitted that his pro-choice stand was important for a lot of people, but it was one of many issues. "What we've really been talking about in Utah is the future and how are we going to get into the 21st century," Hanson said.

Leavitt said he expected a tough general election campaign - especially from Independent Party candidate Cook. "I expect a very hardball, negative campaign by Merrill," said Leavitt. "I suspect he'll see me as the man to beat, not Stewart. You've already seen some inaccurate TV ads by Merrill; a harsh tone." Cook ran as an independent in 1988 for governor, getting 21 percent of the vote.

"I see my race against Hanson turning on two points," Leavitt said. "He's already said he'd consider raising taxes. I won't. And he's pro-choice, I'm strongly pro-life. I won't push that (abortion) issue much - we're so clearly different on this that people will know it."

Hanson said people appreciated his candor on the tax issue. "I'm not going to say, `read my lips, no new taxes,' because that's dishonest."

Hanson ran a smart campaign, Shea said, by not focusing on the question of abortion but on government interference in individual lives. Shea believes he may have lost support from conservative Democrats who voted in the GOP primary because of the heated senatorial race.

Eyre said his loss to Leavitt showed people don't want real change. Gov. Norm Bangerter and Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, both broke tradition by endorsing Leavitt in the primary. Eyre said those endorsements made the race a clear choice between the status quo and change. "If the state isn't ready for change, I'd be the wrong guy to be governor," Eyre said.

Owens and Anderson had a bitter primary fight. Anderson started critical TV advertisements against Owens last week; Owens responded with an attack ad against Anderson; Anderson responded, and so on. The two slowly removed their ads from the air, but at one point Owens said there was no geniality in the race. In short, bad feelings.

Both tried to erase those Tuesday night, with Anderson saying he fully supported Owens' bid for Senate. Owens said: "I just don't sense the deep bitterness" that was supposedly engendered by the primary campaign. "He's a tough opponent . . . He's very bright. He threw the tough stuff at me, and it toughened me up for November. Didn't make me weak at all."

Said Anderson: "I've been tough and Wayne's been tough, but it's been fair." The fight was over issues, not personalities, and it was carried out in the public arena, Anderson said. "Therefore it will not be a problem for us to heal our wounds." But the damage may have already been done.

Said Cannon: "Both Bob and I figured this (the primary) was the U.S. Senate race. I fully expect Bob Bennett to be the next U.S. senator from Utah. Wayne's negatives - and he has a lot of them - were well-known before the (Anderson) ads. But they served to drive them home."

In the Democratic attorney general's race, Utah Solicitor General Jan Graham handily defeated former District Judge Scott Daniels.

Last week, Attorney General Paul Van Dam, a supporter of Graham, and also her boss, questioned Daniels' judicial ethics, saying Daniels attended Democratic Party fund-raisers while a judge. Daniels said he did nothing wrong, but the issue clearly hurt Daniels, who said Tuesday night that media coverage of Van Dam's charges - especially in the Deseret News - cost him the race.

Graham will now face Republican Scott Burns, the Iron County attorney who easily defeated Michael Deamer, a former top aide to two previous Republican attorneys general.