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GOP candidate Tanner Ainge on Jazz star Gordon Hayward: 'I hope he stays'

SALT LAKE CITY — Third Congressional District candidate Tanner Ainge says he doesn't hold much sway over his famous father, Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, at least when it comes to basketball decisions.

That apparently matters to Utah Jazz fans and voters because the Celtics reportedly have an eye on free agent all-star Gordon Hayward.

Social media came alive after Tanner Ainge, a Republican, jumped into the race to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, quickly tying his candidacy to the drama over whether Hayward stays or goes. Some fans want him to ask his dad to back off the popular Jazz player.

"Unfortunately, I'm not sure I have a lot of influence there," Ainge said in a brief interview after appearing Tuesday on KSL Newsradio's "The Doug Wright Show." "Ultimately, Gordon is going to make the decision. I hope he stays."

As a big sports fan, Ainge said he understands the Twitter chatter but prefers it not be the topic of conversation. It's a fun thing that people want to talk about, but voters are focused on getting the country back on track, fiscal responsibility and growing the economy, he said.

Would Utah voters really hold it against the younger Ainge if Hayward bolts for Boston?

"I have no idea," Ainge said.

Ainge has largely stayed out of the media spotlight since announcing his bid for the soon-to-be-vacant 3rd District seat.

The 33-year-old Alpine resident traveled to the seven counties in the district collecting signatures to get on the primary election ballot, but he skipped the state GOP nominating convention on Saturday. He hadn't done a media interview until appearing on Wright's program.

"I'm glad that the ballot is finalized now. Instead of a much shorter process, I'll have two months to get to know Republican voters and delegates and precinct chairs throughout the district and explain why I'm the conservative candidate that best represents their values," Ainge said after the radio interview.

The first-time candidate intends to formally kick off his campaign Thursday in Orem.

Ainge is in a three-way race for the GOP nomination with Provo Mayor John Curtis and former state legislator Chris Herrod, the delegates' choice at the convention. Curtis participated in the convention but like Ainge secured his spot in the Aug. 15 primary with voter petitions.

The winner will face Democrat Kathie Allen, a Cottonwood Heights doctor, in November.

Chaffetz's decision to step down just six months into his fifth term prompted the special election. His last day is June 30.

Ainge said he could no longer sit on the sidelines with the "nonsense" going on in Washington. He said he wants to "restore fiscal sanity" to government and can't trust career politicians to do it.

"Our federal government is hemorrhaging. If we don’t start acting now, we're going to lose limbs," he said.

A lawyer and businessman, Ainge said he would make tough decisions to advance a conservative platform in Congress even if that means losing his seat. He said he's not looking to make a career in politics.

Ainge also said he wants to return power to states, calling the Bears Ears National Monument designation "government doing something it shouldn't have done."