While Tuesday's primary didn't produce a clear-cut Republican choice to challenge Democrat Bill Orton in November, the candidates say it did galvanize the party.
The Tom Draschil-Dixie Thompson race in the 3rd Congressional District was free from the personal attacks that marred previous intraparty elections. The two conservatives stated up front that they were out to get Orton."We haven't beat up each other," said Draschil, the apparent election loser.
Only 200 votes separate the candidates with all but one voting district - tiny Ticaboo in Garfield County with 25 registered voters - unaccounted for.
Thompson held a victory rally on the steps of the historic Utah County Courthouse Wednesday afternoon. Barring an unlikely reversal after a recount next week, Thompson, 50, would be the first woman to vie for the seat since the district was created as a result of the 1980 Census.
Thompson and Draschil say the result of this year's early primary is a harmonized Republican Party, a key to unseating the popular Orton, who has enjoyed immense GOP support the past two general elections. "We have to have a united party," Thompson said.
Draschil, a Provo real-estate developer, wants to do his part.
"I certainly would be willing to endorse her," he said, still hoping the recount swings the nomination his way.
Thompson and Draschil, who agree on most issues, also like the short primary season. The June primary was a first for Utah.
Draschil came out of nowhere at the state convention in April to make up a lot of ground in seven weeks. Given another week or two, he might have overtaken Thompson. Nevertheless, "I'm certainly in favor of the early primary," he said.
Draschil didn't get to as many of the rural areas of the 18-county district as he would have liked. He did well in Utah County. Thompson, an Emery County commissioner, started campaigning in rural Utah last November, traversing the state nearly top to bottom.
"It's hell, but it's worth it," she said. "I think getting out to the people is the biggest challenge."
Thompson also likes it because "you concentrate on the ultimate opponent."
Republicans already have a nominee and see time as an ally in the party's quest to oust Orton. They'll have better opportunities to raise money and "show the way of truth" as Draschil says.
While appealing to politicians, voters didn't care much for the June primary as the 10 percent turnout indicates. "People are not in the mood for politics," Thompson concedes. She said she hopes there's wider interest for the November general election.
Between now and then, Thompson intends to tout her self-described record of "high productivity" in the battle against Orton. During the primary campaign, she often criticized Orton's congressional votes, and that's likely to continue all summer.
But first, "I'm going to rest for a while," Thompson said. "We'll pick up next week."
Recount of votes in close race will take place Tuesday
A recount of votes in GOP primary of the 3rd Congressional District will take place next Tuesday, state officials said Thursday.
Kelleen Leishman, state director of elections, said the lieutenant governor's office will try to coordinate the recount along with the official canvass, which by law takes place a week after the election.
Provo businessman Tom Draschil officially requested the recount Wednesday afternoon. He finished 156 votes behind Emery County Commissioner Dixie Thompson out of the nearly 32,000 votes cast.
The recount will simply repeat the same process used by each county clerk Tuesday night. If the county has computerized ballot counting, the ballots will just be sent through the computer again. If the county counted ballots by hand, they will be counted that way again, Leishman said.
Most absentee ballots were opened and counted Election Day. Any ballots postmarked June 28 and received before next Tuesday's canvass will be added to the totals.