Seven candidates enter Saturday's state Republican Convention seeking a chance to succeed Rep. Enid Greene. Only two (perhaps, one) will come out.
Second Congressional District delegates will vote four times to narrow the field to two, who will then face each other in a June 25 Republican primary. It's possible one will get 70 percent of the vote and win the nomination outright, but candidates interviewed by the Deseret News are anticipating a primary election.The seven are: Carlton Bowen, Merrill Cook, David Harmer, John Charles Houston, R. Todd Neilson, Carol Nixon and David Brighton Timmins.
The first ballot will cut the field to four, and each additional ballot will trim another off the list until the final two remain. If in any ballot a candidate gets 70 percent of the vote, the race is over and he's declared the winner.
Some of the seven are virtually unknown in Utah politics. Others are about as famous as any current officeholder. All say they are the person to carry on the Republican revolution in the U.S. House, won by the Republicans in 1994 for the first time in 40 years.
A recent poll of 500 delegates released by Neilson shows he is ahead among delegates. Cook and Harmer are tied, Nixon a close fourth. Bowen, Houston and Timmins fall way back, Neilson's poll shows.
Cook has conducted two delegate polls, the first showing Neilson ahead, then Nixon, then Cook; the second showing Cook sneaking into second place behind Neilson. There are about 820 GOP delegates in the 2nd District.
A Deseret News/KSL poll of 2nd District residents taken a month ago shows Cook well ahead among the general populace, Harmer second and the rest falling well off.
While polls of delegates and residents prove interesting reading, they don't elect anyone. Delegates vote in secret in the convention, and as one longtime GOP campaigner says: "The first rule of convention preparation is that delegates lie" when asked if they're supporting your candidate.
In addition, the multiple ballot throws normal counting measures to the wind. Neilson's own delegate poll puts him at 31 percent. Assuming he makes it through to the final ballot, that means 70 percent of the delegates voting in the first round supported someone other than him. Where are those 70 percent of delegates going to go in the final vote?
It's enough to cause upset stomachs for candidates and campaign managers alike.
Here are brief histories and statements of the candidates, proceeding in order of public support as measured by the Deseret News/KSL poll:
Merrill Cook, 49, returns to the Republican Party fold this year. Since 1988, in runs in two governor races and a 2nd District contest, Cook had been an independent.
All GOP candidates want to balance the federal budget, says Cook. Citing his Harvard MBA degree, work as a national consultant and successful explosives business, only he has the practical experience to do it, he says. "We can grow ourselves out of most of that deficit by adopting a flat 17 percent income tax that preserves the home mortgage and charitable contribution deductions."
A lengthy analysis of the 17 percent income tax rate shows it to be revenue neutral. But, says Cook, he believes the flat tax would greatly stimulate the economy, leading to $100 billion in natural income tax growth over the next several years, which would be used to lower the deficits.
"Another key component for making sure we reach our goal is to index the earnings on capital gains by accounting for inflation before taxation."
On other issues, Cook says he is pro-life and against light rail construction in Salt Lake County.
David Harmer, 32, seeks his first elective office this year. He's worked on a number of previous GOP campaigns, including serving as Greene's campaign manager in 1994 (he says he didn't know that Joe Waldholtz was playing with campaign funds) and as Greene's chief of staff in Washington, D.C., briefly in 1995.
Unlike some of his opponents who only want to trim back government growth, Harmer says he wants to cut the federal budget - to actually reduce the dollar amount the federal government spends. He'd eliminate the federal departments of education, commerce, energy and Housing and Urban Development and turn welfare completely back to the states. He would "end corporate welfare, foreign aid and brain-dead outlays like SSI benefits for drug addicts and non-citizens."
If he is in office, Harmer promises to kill federal funding for Salt Lake County's light rail, saying it's too expensive and not cost-effective.
The federal tax code is a mess, penalizing people for earning, saving, investing, even marrying, says Harmer. He'd replace the income tax with a national retail sales tax. He favors a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.
Criminals should serve the whole sentence, not be released early only to commit more crimes, says Harmer.
R. Todd Neilson, 49, is a former FBI agent who founded his own CPA firm specializing in cleaning up major financial problems. This is also his first run at public office.
Neilson wants a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He supports the GOP's seven-year plan to balance the federal budget. "I will fight for any tax reform plan making taxes flatter and simpler," he says.
Neilson says he'll fight any attempt at a tax increase and supports a constitutional amendment requiring a "super-majority" of Congressional votes to raise any taxes.
Neilson has six specific reforms he wants in welfare, from requiring welfare payments to go to "intact" families with father, mother and children to ending welfare benefits after two years.
Neilson said as an FBI agent he chased fugitives through the poor areas of Los Angeles and has "seen firsthand the cycle of poverty caused by the welfare trap."
He supports the "three strikes and you're out" approach to career felons, supports the death penalty and agrees with Congress's actions in limiting death penalty appeals.
Neilson says he wants county residents to vote on light rail. Failing to get that vote of approval, he said he can't support light rail in the county.
Carol Nixon, 58, is a former chief of staff to former GOP Gov. Norm Bangerter. She briefly ran for the 2nd District in 1994 but got out of the race before the filing deadline, saying she had too much work as director of community development for the state.
Nixon said she's running because years of building a successful business with her husband, raising six children and working for the Utah Arts Council, Bangerter and Gov. Mike Leavitt "have shown me that government policies have consequences."
What Congress needs, says Nixon, is a good dose of government management Utah style, and she's the person to bring it to Washington, D.C.
"Productive pro-growth policies like cutting taxes and rolling back intrusive federal regulations can create an environment of economic growth and security, while a growing centralized bureaucracy encroaches on freedom and opportunity."
Nixon said her work in state government shows her that federal policies aimed at helping small-business people, the homeless and displaced workers have not worked well.
She said she'd help in Utah's effort to reform welfare, balance rights with responsibility and to improve education. "The time has come to promote on a national level those policies that have worked so well here at home."
David Timmins, 65, is a retired U.S. diplomat who returned to Utah after 32 years as a career foreign service officer. He was raised and educated in Utah, graduating from the University of Utah and getting a doctorate in economics and government from Harvard.
Timmins said he will serve only eight years, then voluntarily step down. Following the example of "George Washington as commander of the Continental Army, I will accept no salary" as a congressman.
He promises to fight for a balanced budget and term limits for Congress. He wants to control pornographic material and "reasonable limits" on abortion. "I will press Washington to return to state control a substantial portion of the 60 percent of the state's territory," noting that other states weren't required to give so much of their land to the federal government.
Timmins doesn't want to weigh down the Constitution with amendments - one for a school prayer, another for abortion, a third for flag burning. Instead, Timmins wants to re-enact word for word, the 9th and 10th amendments. "We the people still mean it. Feds keep out of territory reserved to the states or the people."
Carlton Bowen, 26, is a married student working and finishing up a degree at Weber State University.
Bowen says he is the constitutional candidate, running to return the country to the responsibilities embodied in the document. "The first and foremost issue (in the race) is the Constitution itself. It encompasses other problems, such as the federal budget deficit, state and federal frictions and federal involvement in personal lives."
Bowen said he wouldn't vote for any spending that required borrowing more money - absolutely no deficit spending.
The federal judiciary must be reigned in. For 180 years there was no constitutional guarantee of abortion. Judicial activism created one, along with forced release of criminals from jails and prisons deemed overcrowded by federal judges. If elected, he will introduce legislation, based on the constitutional authority of a strong legislative branch and a weak judicial branch, that will prohibit the Supreme Court from hearing any case involving abortion, public prayer and state control of prisons.
He opposes public funding of light rail in Salt Lake County. "There is no constitutional authorization for federal funding of local transportation needs. In addition, local voters rejected public funding of light rail." He opposes term limits, preferring voters make choices, and is opposed to gun control.
John Houston, 46, seeks his first public office. In 1991, he ran unsuccessfully for chairman of the Salt Lake County Republican Party. Houston has just finished law school at George Mason University and plans on taking the bar this year.
He lists his main campaign themes in this order: A balanced budget amendment, term limits for congressmen, opposition to light rail in Salt Lake County and improving the U.S. balance of trade.
"I completely support a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget," said Houston. "I also favor term limits for U.S. representatives and senators: two, six-year terms for senators; six, two-year terms for House members. If I'm elected I'll follow those limits regardless of whether they become law. After 12 years I'm gone, I'll step aside."
Houston believes Utah Transit Authority officials and advocates of light rail in the county haven't been truthful with people. "How this issue has been handled, there is no accountability to taxpayers or voters."
Even though residents rejected a tax increase for light rail several years ago, "light rail advocates act as if that vote doesn't count. It certainly does."