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Moderate nominees for House cheer as challengers cry foul

SHARE Moderate nominees for House cheer as challengers cry foul

Moderate GOP incumbents are crying victory. Their more-conservative challengers, meanwhile, are still crying foul.

"I'm outraged and incensed; I'm hurt and insulted by what the governor has done," said Janalee Tobias, an activist in her South Jordan community who lost a bid to unseat long-time incumbent Rep. Lloyd Frandsen, R-South Jordan.Gov. Mike Leavitt personally intervened on behalf of Frandsen and two other incumbent moderates in the House, spending money from his own election account for a telephone campaign to get more Republicans out to the polls.

"That is not the way the American system is supposed to work," Tobias said late Tuesday. She says she is not an extremist, or a fanatic, or an arch-conservative. "I am the people's choice. I know I'm the people's choice. I do Little League, I'm in the PTA, I'm a Kool-aid mom, I do Jazzercise."

But she wasn't a GOP insider.

Time and again, Leavitt has counted on his faithful GOP soldiers in the Utah Legislature to back his moderate agenda.

On Tuesday, those incumbents - all of whom campaigned on Leav-itt's popular coattails - were rewarded with convincing primary election victories over their conservative challengers. In fact, no incumbent in the state House or Senate lost in the primaries, and most won handily.

Matrixx Marketing made thousands of calls on behalf of Leavitt just before the election. One call went to the Tobias home answering machine. Georgie, an endearing-sounding woman, said she was calling on behalf of Gov. Mike Leavitt. "The governor hopes you will join him in supporting Representative Lloyd Frandsen," the caller said.

"This is so unfair," said Tobias, who is still figuring out what she will do to guarantee this doesn't happen to another candidate in the future.

Her family spent "vacation money, grocery money, treat money and sports money" on her campaign. Leavitt, on the other hand, spent nothing of his own.

"I spent thousands of dollars on this campaign because I believe in this system," she said. "It wasn't a sacrifice (for Leavitt) to expend that money, and he has effectively crushed me with the power of his little finger."

There were 14 House primary races Tuesday. All pitted Republican candidates against each other. There were no Democratic primaries.

Rep. Susan Koehn, R-Woods Cross, received Leavitt's telephone-bank endorsement. Her opponent is an officer in the county Libertarian Party.

The majority of people are "mainstream thinkers," Koehn said. "The far right is well-organized and loud, but they don't have the numbers."

Her defeated opponent, retired communications engineer Richard G. "Dick" Brown, says the party is under attack.

"Governor Leavitt has his free agency and can endorse who he wants - but if they are targeting the far right, they're targeting the founding fathers."

Larry Parker, who lost another Davis County House race to incumbent Richard Siddoway, says his opponent has Leavitt to thank for the win.

"I'm a lifetime Republican. My father was a lifetime Republican. They're dividing the party by doing this," he said. "I took it personally. It wasn't an endorsement. It was outright campaigning against me."

Another moderate who survived a scare was Rep. Keele Johnson, R-Blanding, who was challenged by former Grand County Commissioner Manuel Torres. Johnson won with 55 percent of the votes cast, but Johnson was concerned enough going into the election that he spent a good share of his time campaigning where Republicans are extremely rare: on the Navajo Reservation.

Navajos traditionally vote as a Democratic block, but Johnson, who has sponsored numerous initiatives to benefit the Navajos, convinced tribal leaders it was necessary to cross party lines. Some 300 Navajos voted in the GOP primary, about 75 percent casting ballots for Johnson.

Those votes were not the difference in the race, but it did signal a willingness of some Democrats in southeastern Utah to cross over and vote for a moderate Republican. The key will be if Johnson can persuade them to vote Republican in the general election.

"One-third of the voters in this district live on the reservation. People overlook them too easily down here, but they are a very powerful force," Johnson said.

In other races of interest, Weber County Republican Chairman Frank Guliuzza lost the race for a House seat in District 10 to political newcomer Bill Turner.

Guliuzza said he was a little surprised by the results, considering he came out of the convention in the lead.

"I think we worked very hard and I met a lot of nice people," he said. "I wish Bill well."

In Davis County, longtime lawmaker Rep. Carl Saunders beat Riverdale City Councilman Jeff Powars in House District 11, which encompasses Ogden, .

Incumbent David Zolman easily beat Rick Berry to take the Taylorsville House District 39 seat.

In House District 30, which covers the area between 1300 and 3600 South between 500 and 1100 East, political newcomer Bryan J. Irving beat Paul F. Mecham, a former state lawmaker, for the seat that covers portions of South Salt Lake, Millcreek and Brickyard.

Irving, 33, a general contractor, will face Democrat Jacki Bis-kup-ski in the general election. The seat has been a safe Democratic seat, but current incumbent Gene Davis is running for the Senate.

Chad Bennion, 33, economic development coordinator for the city of Murray, beat Carlton Bowen in the bid to replace three-term Rep. Robert Killpack, who retired from House District 44, which covers west and central Murray and north Midvale.

Businessman Richard Perry narrowly beat out Brigitte Dawson in House District 48, which covers Sandy and White City, to face Rep. Trish Beck, D-Sandy, in the general election.

Both are political newcomers. Perry owns K-TALK radio and other businesses.

Lehi Elementary teacher David N. Cox beat out fellow first-time candidate Steven W. Roll for the District 56 House seat. The seat is being vacated by Christine Fox-Finlinson, who served in the Legislature since 1987 and was the House majority leader.

Cox, 44, served on the Utah County GOP executive committee.