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Were letters fatal blow in House race?

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Lorie Fowlke, candidate for Utah House District 59, waves to potential voters from State Street in Orem.

Lorie Fowlke, candidate for Utah House District 59, waves to potential voters from State Street in Orem.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News

Rep. Mike Thompson, R-Orem, once believed he was the chosen one.

In Tuesday's Republican primary and his quest for re-election in House District 59, he was not. Instead, voters chose Lorie Fowlke, a 52-year-old lawyer and current stay-at-home mom, who beat Thompson by 320 votes.

The loss derailed Thompson's political career, which stretches back 12 years including two terms in the Legislature and two terms on the Orem City Council.

Tuesday's results may have been impacted by a series of letters Thompson wrote in the 1980s, copies of which surfaced in Orem mailboxes just days before the primary. The letters were sent anonymously with the the phrase "paid for by those of us who really know Mike and why he should not serve in an elected office" printed on them.

In the letters, Thompson lashed out at Orem city officials, including then-mayor DeLance Squire, for not supporting him during a failed bid for City Council in the early 1980s. Thompson wrote that he had been chosen by God to save the U.S. Constitution, Squire said. Thompson included with the letter a note written to him from Ezra Taft Benson, former president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that included seven points of advice, some of them relating to the U.S. Constitution.

"He felt that was an endorsement for his calling, that he was following the direction of President Benson," Squire said.

Because the letter copies that surfaced last week were sent anonymously, Thompson believes they may have violated campaign laws. He turned them over to the Utah County Attorney's Office, where they are being reviewed.

"We'll have to see if there is a violation of election code," said Chris Yannelli of the county attorney's office. "Unfortunately there is not enough time before an election to review these kinds of things."

The outside of the envelopes containing the copied letters bore only a Provo postmark. Determining who sent them would be difficult, Yannelli said.

Thompson has implied that Fowlke was involved in distributing the letters, which she denies. She said she worried before the election that the letters might turn voters against her, if they believed she was involved.

"It's unfortunate that they came out the way they did and I'm upset there's still a cloud on my campaign," Fowlke said Wednesday. "I think it confused a lot of people. I don't blame those who thought I had something to do with it, but those who know me know I would never do something like that. I've never seen the letters."

Fowlke said after the letters surfaced Friday she made efforts to determine how many had been sent out. She said the distribution was scattered: Some went to Orem elected officials, others to Republican party convention delegates, and some to voters.

"I don't think it had much of an impact either way," she said.

Thompson could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but on the eve of the election he said a loss wouldn't devastate him.

"I have other things in my life," he said.

During his two terms in the House, Thompson focused heavily on child welfare issues. Fowlke said he ignored other issues, which is why voters chose her as his replacement.

"I spent so much time steeling myself for a loss that it hasn't really sunk in," she said. "But I'm excited to get going."

Fowlke will face Libertarian Russ Zimmerman in November.

In the House District 60 race in Orem, voters chose Bradley Daw over Kelvin Harper to run on the Republican ticket to replace outgoing Rep. Kathy Bryson, who opted not to seek re-election. Daw will face Democrat Lance LeVar in November.

In House District 65, Aaron Tilton advanced to the November ballot where he will be unopposed. Tilton had faced a primary with incumbent Rep. Calvin Bird, R-Springville, but Bird formally withdrew from the primary race earlier this month after the Deseret Morning News reported his citation in South Salt Lake involving a prostitution sting.

In the non-partisan school board races. Andrea Forsyth and Kelvin Clayton emerged from a field of four candidates in Alpine District 7 and will face off in November for the four-year seat. Forsyth won 45 percent of the vote, Clayton won 26 percent. Kirby Glad (17 percent) and Joseph Lambson (12 percent) were eliminated.

In the Nebo District, K.L. Tischner and Sandy Gurney advanced to the November ballot in District 1. Tischner collected 42 percent of the vote in the four-way race with Gurney capturing 20 percent. Emily Rowley and Kay Smith, each with 19 percent, were eliminated.

E-mail: jhyde@desnews.com