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Know the West

Utah ultra-conservatives kill a RINO


In what may be a sign of things to come, one of the country’s most conservative congressmen recently lost an election – to an even more conservative upstart. Despite being out-fundraised four to one, first-time office-seeker Jason Chaffetz defeated six-term U.S. House member Chris Cannon by 20 percentage points in Utah’s June 24 Republican primary. Cannon was a darling of the national Republican Party’s business establishment, but his support for a guest-worker program sought by the Bush administration angered anti-immigration activists. Their blogs, billboards, and talk radio comments successfully pegged him as an open-borders Republican In Name Only, a label that became his undoing in a low-turnout election where ultra-conservatives had a disproportionate say.

With Cannon’s defeat, the Republican Party has lost not only one of its more moderate voices on immigration but also one of its most tireless proponents of oil-shale development. In the weeks before the election, Cannon appeared on CNN’s Glenn Beck show saying that the environmental review process for oil shale should be shortened to “seven weeks, or even seven days.”

Cannon’s loss may serve as a warning to the traditionally-dominant business wing of the national Republican Party. He collected $547,587, or 87% of his 2008 campaign kitty, from special-interest political action committees, most of them business-related. Chaffetz, according to opensecrets.org, accepted only $2,000 from business groups. But he received over $25,000 from members of Team America, the anti-immigration political group founded by Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo. Team America announced Chaffetz’s victory – and thus Cannon’s defeat – with the following celebratory Web site headline: “Adios Amigo!”