Conventional wisdom says Rep. Chris Cannon doesn't have much to worry about in the Republican primary election next week. He's the incumbent. He's about as conservative as they come. And he has a lot of money to dump into the campaign.
Then again, he's up against an unconventional candidate, a not-so-lone voice in the fidgety Republican wilderness who isn't shy about proclaiming that God is on his side. Jeremy Friedbaum has managed to inspire just enough far-right thinkers with his low-budget campaign that Cannon can't ignore the backlash since wresting the 3rd Congressional District from the Democrats two years ago."It is very clear in Utah County and throughout the state that there's a bunch of people who are unhappy," Cannon said.
Is it because Cannon didn't sign on to a bill that aimed to start impeachment proceedings against President Clinton? Is it because he voted for most-favored-nation status for China? Is it because he doesn't vote no on everything? Friedbaum thinks so.
What voters think in the 18-county district will be manifest at the polls June 23. The winner won't have much trouble getting to Congress, because there's no Democratic candidate to contend with. Libertarian Kitty K. Burton and Independent American Party candidate Will Christensen will be on the November ballot.
Cannon says he has been a consistent, effective conservative in Congress and his views are in sync with the district. He said he helped balance the federal budget by repeatedly voting to cut programs and avoid new ones. He sees himself as a voice for tax relief.
"I have tried to take a balanced approach," he said.
The first-term representative points to his bill to expand Arches National Park as an example. Cannon said he worked hard to bring environmentalists, local officials, ranchers, recreationists and even the Clinton administration together.
"The public process should be about gathering all the information and listening to all sides. I think we succeeded on Arches," he said.
Diplomacy would not figure into Friedbaum's approach to office. "I believe certain things need to be said in the political world today because of the problems with corruption and self-interest," he said.
Although there are some cads in Congress, Cannon said, there are many good people with whom he enjoys associating and whose votes he might influence. Much can be accomplished by taking small steps, he said. "You'll never get a bill that is totally constitutional in this day," Cannon said.
Despite Friedbaum's constitutional-principles rhetoric, two of the state's arch-conservative organizations aren't officially in his corner.
Neither the Utah Eagle Forum nor the Utah Republican Assembly endorsed his candidacy. Friedbaum said those groups told him they won't back him because it's unrealistic to run without accepting financial contributions. They don't endorse Cannon either.
The Cannon camp was busy last week trying to identify Friedbaum's followers through a brief telephone survey. One of the two questions asked respondents whether they would vote for incumbent David Bateman or challenger Richard Mack in the Utah County sheriff's race, figuring those supporting the non-mainstream Mack would also favor Friedbaum. (Mack has publicly distanced himself from Friedbaum and says Cannon is doing a good job in Congress.)
The voter-identification polling is part of the Cannon campaign's conventional strategy to get people to the ballot box who won't vote for an unconventional candidate. "We take him seriously, but he is different," Cannon said.
U.S. Congress - 3rd District
What do you think is the main issue facing the 3rd District?
Reducing the federal-tax burden on Utah's working families.
Reforming a corrupt federal government. Through legal and illegal contributions to individual politicians and their parties, well-financed special interests control the votes of many in Congress. We need to return the nation to the vision of the Founding Fathers wherein a moral and virtuous people govern themselves by the eternal laws of God and secure for themselves the blessings of freedom, self-reliance and sovereignty.
Why should primary-election voters choose you instead of your opponent?
Two years ago I promised to be a consistent, effective conservative in Congress. I have voted to reduce the tax burden, cut government spending and return power to states. Also, I have stood up for Utah's interests by protecting Lake Powell, supporting our high-tech industries and cracking down on criminal illegal aliens.
The voters want a congressman who will impeach Bill Clinton - not shield him, offer him fast-track trade authority and pass his tax bill, as my opponent has. The voters want to send their children and grandchildren to China as Christian missionaries, not as soldiers to die fighting a militant communist empire we financed and armed through most-favored nation (trade status) and other policies my opponent supports.
Do you favor a constitutional amendment to prohibit dese-cration of the American flag?
I cosponsored the amendment authority authored by Sen. Hatch to protect the American flag from desecration. We made it illegal to deface U.S. currency or damage a mailbox. We can - and should - offer similar protection of our flag.
I abhor flag desecration, yet I do not support this unnecessary amendment. Instead we should use the constitutional power granted Congress to limit appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and let stand existing state flag-desecration laws. The root problem is the current generation has not been taught the lofty principles and sacred history of the founding of this country and the flag representing it.
Please describe what conservatism means to you.
Smaller, less intrusive government; lowering the tax burden; removing governmental interference from the family; rule of law; property rights; proper constitutional role of government; reservation of government authority to the states.
Conserve means to keep what you have. There are not enough constitutional principles left in the current functioning of our government to be content with conservatism. We must recognize that blessings of this promised land are predicated on obeying God's laws, repent as a nation and reform the government to the original intent of the Constitution.
What role should government play, if any, in regulation of the Internet?
The Internet is one of the most important technological achievements of this century. Its fundamental strength is its cooperative nature, free from ultimate control by any government or entity. The key future challenge is to limit government's role to narrow issues such as aggressively pursuing purveyors of child pornography.
I love the freedom of the Internet, but I would like to see the Internet's controlling body adopt the extension ".sex" to be used by all sexually oriented sites. That would make it much easier for ISPs and families to protect the innocent. A person remains responsible for his acts, legally and before God, whether online or face to face.
What do you think about the proposal to trade state lands within national parks and forests for federal lands and cash to benefit Utah schoolchildren?
The proposed trade is good for Utah's schools. I hope I have been helpful in forcing this administration to deal with school trust lands. But remember this trade only deals with about 10 percent of Utah's school trust lands, the vast majority of which would still be surrounded by federal property. This is a good first step, not the final one.
It concerns me because it appears to be accepting as permanent the unconstitutional theft of our state's land by the federal government. I would like to see Utah, like many Eastern states, control all its own land as the U.S. Constitution dictates it should. Then let us in Utah be judged as to whether our dominion over it be righteous or not. I pray that we will serve as good stewards to this land God has entrusted to us.
Friedbaum's question for Cannon: You support GATT, NAFTA, most-favored nation status for China and giving Bill Clinton "fast-track" trade authority, and you will not support immediate impeachment of Clinton. Is your allegiance to your district or the Republican leadership?
The premise of the question is offensive. My allegiance is to the people of Utah. Two years ago I ran and won on a platform of expanding opportunities for Utah companies overseas. Also, I have been one of Mr. Clinton's most blistering critics on the House floor and in committee. I have pledged to hold him accountable for any misdeeds at the appropriate time. That is, probably, after Mr. Starr sends his legally mandated report to Congress.
Cannon's question for Friedbaum: Do you support my efforts to block the Sierra Club's plan to drain Lake Powell?
I do not support draining Lake Powell. However, I find your tactic of filing a bill - stating there will be no change in the water level and no discussion of it and that's that - a bit polarizing. Giving the people that use the water stored by the dam jurisdiction in determining the future level of the lake might have been a more appropriately democratic solution.
Friedbaum's question for Cannon: On Friday, May 8, at an optional meeting of the GOP convention in Orem with only 20 percent of all delegates present, you and all your paid staff with delegate badges successfully led the effort to deny the full body of duly elected delegates meeting the next day, Saturday, the right to hear from four federal candidates before voting for them. Why?
Apparently my opponent recalls the convention differently than I do. During this debate, I was not on the floor. I certainly did not tell any employees who were delegates how to vote on this or any other issue.
Cannon's question for Friedbaum: Many Utahns are concerned about political extremists infiltrating the Republican Party. Which political groups and individuals have you been involved with over the past decade?
I have been involved with and support many of the ideals of the Eagle Forum, the Utah Republican Assembly and the John Birch Society. However, I am not a dues-paying member of any of them. I supported Alan Keyes for president in 1996. The individuals who have most influenced my political views are Ezra Taft Benson and the Founding Fathers.