The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of The Davis County Clipper.
The Tea Party wasn’t on the ballot in last week’s primary election, but it turned out to be the big loser anyway. The real victor was the moderate wing of the Republican Party, the same group that angered GOP activists by making it easier through Count My Vote to bypass neighborhood caucuses and still land on the ballot.
The ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party not only lost; it was mugged, slammed to the mat and kicked to the curb. Two former Utah governors, Jon Huntsman Jr. and Mike Leavitt, are somewhere grinning in delight.
It happened in rural Utah as well as the suburbs. In Bountiful, for example, family physician Ray Ward, a proponent of making health care more readily available and increasing money for public education, lost at the county convention, but defeated the more conservative Chet Loftis for a Utah House seat. Loftis had the support of the Republican establishment including Gov. Gary Herbert, and Congressman Rob Bishop and the district’s retiring legislator. He also claimed that Dr. Ward loved ObamaCare and was a closet Democrat. Yet, Ward won. (At press time, mail-in ballots were still being counted, but it appeared Ward’s margin would hold firm.)
Davis County’s most conservative school board member also lost. Peter Cannon, an anti-tax leader of the 9-11 movement and a Tea Party favorite, lost to two other candidates; one who outspent Cannon and an unknown who didn’t. Cannon’s ouster came as a shock; the Tea Party Clout was considered strong enough that Cannon didn’t mail out brochures. Cannon’s loss was also a setback for parents opposing the Common Core.
In southern Utah, Sen. Evan Vickers came within one delegate vote of losing his State Senate seat to ultraconservative Casey Anderson. Yet when mainstream Republicans weighed in last week in the party’s primary election, Vickers won easily (15,576 to 7,629). Unlike Anderson, Vickers was considered a moderate conservative who was approachable and friendly. He also could see the writing on the wall when it came to the Count My Vote measure. He supported a compromise which left the caucus system intact; for that he was demonized by ultraconservative Republicans who waved the Constitution while dodging political reality.
In a similar race, Iron County’s incumbent John Westwood received almost three times more votes than his more conservative challenger for a Utah House seat.
The far Right-wing movement has indeed moved the Republican Party to the right of the political spectrum, but the primary election showed that the average voter is not aligned with the “no compromise” crowd. Utahns are conservative, but they don’t wear tin foil hats. They listen to Doug Wright, not K-Talk radio.
After seeing the Republican Party results, Sen Mike Lee should feel a bit uncomfortable. With the Count My Vote compromise, it appears likely that he will face an election against an opponent like Leavitt or Mitt Romney’s son – and the mainstream voters, not caucus delegates, will decide who goes to Washington.