U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon, a six-term incumbent congressman from Utah, went down in flames Tuesday in the 3rd District primary, defeated by Republican Jason Chaffetz.
Cannon, one of the nation's most conservative congressmen, lost his bid for a seventh term to Chaffetz, an underfunded political newcomer who made opposition to illegal immigration, rejection of amnesty, and support for tough deportation policies the driving factors in his campaign.
Cannon reportedly outspent Chaffetz by a margin of seven-to-one, according to an Associated Press report, and had the entire GOP establishment from the White House on down backing him.
The election, which focused on whether Cannon was conservative enough, lost to Chaffetz by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent. Voter turnout was described as low.
Chaffetz, a former Brigham Young University football player who served as chief of staff for popular Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman, repeatedly pounded the incumbent on immigration during the campaign and pledged to be even more conservative.
During the months leading to the primary, Chaffetz claimed Cannon was soft on immigration, saying his votes amounted to offering amnesty to people in the country illegally. Chaffetz says he wants the U.S. to deport all illegal immigrants and stop granting automatic citizenship to children born here if their parents aren't legal residents.
"I think we have a mandate to help return the Republican Party to its core conservative principles," Chaffetz tells The Associated Press. "People [are] fed up and we empowered them to come [be] involved and make the changes we need."
Cannon, who had no immediate public comment on the election result, had hoped his name recognition, a large amount of campaign cash, and a pool of more moderate voters would propel him again to the Republican nomination. An endorsement from President Bush was also expected to help.
Chaffetz will face Democratic candidate Spencer Bennion, a former television reporter, in the November general election.
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