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Primary unlikely in 2nd District next year

Republican Rep. Merrill Cook and Democratic challenger Lily Eskelsen likely will face off in the 2nd District race next year without having to face primaries.

"At this stage of the game I don't see any viable Republican alternative to Merrill Cook," state GOP Chairman Rob Bishop said Thursday at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.Bishop said it's almost too late for a serious challenger to emerge in the race "so I don't see any kind of (primary) challenge to Merrill Cook."

Democratic Party leader Meghan Zanolli Holbrook said the same of former teachers' union president Eskelsen.

"We're clearing the decks" for Eskelsen, Holbrook said.

Holbrook said the next two elections will be critical because of the state's tremendous growth and because of redistricting or the once-a-decade redrawing of political boundaries.

"The class of 1998 is going to determine what happens in the next 25 years in Utah," Holbrook said.

Bishop said he feels an intense pressure to retain the Republican dominance in the next election.

"I have everything to lose and Meghan has everything to win," Bishop said. "If the Democrats stay alive, they succeed."