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Monday, June 26, 2006
Apropos Tomorrow's Primary

The only incumbent I'd vote for in tomorrow's Republican primary is in a Congressional district I don't live in.

There's a primary election tomorrow. I've been trying to keep my ears open, ask a few questions, hear the answers, and so forth, but I hadn't done my candidate homework systematically since the Republican convention, until tonight. Tonight I finally spent some more time with the candidates -- virtually, that is, thanks to audio and video available on the Web.

Here in American Fork and in the 2rd (not 3rd) Congressional District, I get to vote tomorrow in one Utah County Commissioner race, the County Clerk/Auditor race, . . . and that's about all. But readers have been asking me to weigh in on the 3rd Congressional District race between incumbent Congressman Chris Cannon and his Republican primary challenger John Jacob. So I'll offer some thoughts about that, too.

If you still have time to do some of your own homework, the good but overworked folks at Citizens' Resource have posted video of a recent Cannon/Jacobs debate. It was part of a larger event that organization cohosted. They have also provided at their site an audio recording of debates and statements from the County Commission and County Clerk/Auditor races, from the same event. (I might have attended it myself, but among the Rodebacks an air show at Hill Air Force Base outpaces even politics in the race to occupy our Saturday.)

If you are interested in my earlier thoughts about these folks, see my "first impressions" and my notes on the County Republican Convention.

Warning: Besides discussing important political issues, in some cases I will actually cite the quality of speeches, even grammar and giggles, in evaluating candidates below. Yes, the issues matter more . . . but it's going to get a little weird. Now you've been warned.

County Commission Seat A

Multiterm incumbent Jerry Grover actually finished slightly behind challenger and former Commissioner Gary Anderson. I've been trying for months to find someone to tell me that Anderson, when he was a Commissioner two decades ago, was God's (or Satan's) gift to government, but no one has done so. I suppose I'm not asking the right people. Nor have I found others who believe as passionately as Anderson that Grover needs to go.

I don't have the years of firsthand experience with Utah County goverment that I have with American Fork City government, so I don't have a lot of data of my own, either.

I weigh Grover's apparent arrogance against Anderson being almost too smooth, in a Utah salt-of-the-earth sort of way, and the balance is about even. I take Grover's boasts of privatizing this and that and lowering taxes -- good in principle, but I'm suspicious of the effects in specific instances -- and find that they balance Anderson's insistence on working well with municipalities, focusing on economic development and not just saving economic development dollars, and so forth. So far, they're even in my mind -- though based on first impressions I really hoped by now to have reason to be enthusiastic about Anderson.

What tips the balance for me in the voting booth tomorrow is transportation. Utah County is well behind the curve, in comparison to highly populated counties to the north. I can see that for myself. I haven't been on the inside to see whose finger-pointing makes the most sense. So I reason thusly: No matter how much Grover may proclaim his support for mass transit and other transportation improvements, he and his two fellow Commissioners have presided over . . . a lot less than they should have. I think the right leaders could have done much better by now, both on their own and in rallying support among other jurisdictions (cities, the state, the feds). I think the same is true of enabling law enforcement in the canyons, by the way

I'm not sure the challenger is one of "the right leaders," but I figure he's at least as likely to be as the incumbent. Moreover, he hasn't been in charge for the last few losing seasons. I'll vote for Gary Anderson tomorrow.

County Clerk/Auditor

After the Republican convention I reported that Bryan Thompson avoided a primary against Cary McConnell, but I seem to have been mistaken.

Here again I have little firsthand experience and not much second-hand information, either. I listened to the debate audio and came away with the following reasons to favor Thompson over McConnell. (They're essentially what I thought before.)

  • Thompson has more experience in private industry, as opposed to McConnell's in county government.
  • Thompson does not have a high-pitched giggle -- or if he does, he doesn't use it at campaign events. (What he does in the privacy of his own home or office in this matter . . . matters not to me.)
  • Thompson is a more polished public speaker.
  • Thompson's grammar isn't perfect, but McConnell's made me cringe repeatedly.
  • Based more on earlier impressions than on the recent debate, I think McConnell has drunk the early voting Kool-Aid, while I remain suspicious that it is not, in fact, a good thing for democracy.

Yes, in fact you could have voted at the County building two weeks ago. But that's a topic for another day.

I'll be voting for Bryan Thompson.

3rd Congressional District

I'm in the 2nd District, but a lot of American Forkers and others in Utah County are in the 3rd. Multi-term incumbent Chris Cannon finished behind challenger John Jacob in the convention. The race has attracted national attention, because it might be an early litmus test on Republican voter attitudes about immigration.

In a sense, the debate was a contest to sound more-conservative-than-thou, which is not a particularly endearing feature of Utah politics. (I say that as a conservative.) Cannon repeatedly turned agreement into a reason to ask, who will be more effective? Jacob typically responded -- I paraphrase here -- that Cannon has not single-handedly compelled all of Congress to bow to his will, so Jacob would therefore be the more effective.

Immigration was a big issue, but No Child Left Behind, oil prices, and the cost of medical care received substantial comment, too.

Jacob's supporters will think me unfair or even unkind, but here's why I endorse Chris Cannon, even if I don't get to vote for him. (These are in no particular order, except the first.)

  • Jacob's little speeches during the debate sounded like a poorly-packaged, clumsily-delivered set of push-the-buttons talking points. Not only was Cannon more articulate and more substantive; several times after Jacob spoke I found myself wondering what he had actually said. I'm not enough of a cynic to believe that that's a desirable trait in politics. I tend rather to think that fuzzy speaking and writing indicate fuzzy thinking. I don't think Cannon is Einstein, but -- forgive me -- Jacob came across as a mental bantamweight, even if he did bring his little copy of the Constitution with him as a visual aid. There you have it: I question Jacob's intelligence. It's naughty of me, I know -- No Candidate Left Behind, and all that.
  • It's "ILLegal immigration," Mr. Jacob, not "EE-legal immigration." (Sorry, folks, but for me it's a worse turnoff even than "nucular.")
  • Cannon spoke intelligently about the Pence plan (an immigration compromise, of sorts), and then Jacob said he was at a disadvantage because Cannon can read the bill, whereas he has to rely on what he reads in the newspapers. Frankly, I fail to understand why a Republican congressional candidate could not just pick up the phone, call Representative Pence, and get whatever he wants inside ten minutes, including a draft of the plan (now available on the Web, but perhaps not there before the June 10 debate). Or he could read Pence's speech at the Heritage Foundation, where he described the plan in detail.
  • Jacob told of a small business owner who complained that she can't get health insurance for her employees because she has less than 15 of them. I'm not saying she didn't say that, but she was wrong. The company I work for has four employees, and we have an excellent health insurance package through the company. Talking points come across better if they are not obviously false, I think.

I haven't even considered recent published reports that John Jacob used to employ illegal aliens, which, if true, would tend to embarrass him on his own major issue, immigration.

So what about voting for a third-party candidate in the 3rd District, such as a Democrat, or the Libertarian or Constitution candidates? (We're talking about November now, not tomorrow's primary.)

Don't waste your vote.

Based admittedly only on their two-minute statements at the June 11 event . . . ouch. The Democrat, Christian Burridge, talks faster and more smoothly than Jacob but is neither more substantive nor more coherent -- and that's in a prepared statement, not open debate. He desperately needs a speech writer or at least a speech coach, if he's going to play with the big boys. The Libertarian, 27-year-old Philip Hallman, has a head full of high-sounding words and big ideas, with all the political sophistication of a 17-year-old. (We don't let 16- and 17-year-olds vote for a reason, I think, but he wants to change even that!) The most polished statement was by Constitution Party candidate Jim Noorlander -- but if he believes all that stuff so passionately, he ought to join a major party and change it from the inside.

There you have it. Comments are welcome, according to the usual standards.

David Rodeback comments:

I continue to provide illustrations of why one should not blog late at night. This post originally had 2nd and 3rd (as in congressional districts) reversed. I regret and have corrected the error.

The guy at viewsfromutahcounty.blogspot.com, who gave me his name but does not want you to have it, comments (6/27/06):

Vote for John Jacob. I voted for John Jacob at the State Republican Convention in May as did all the other state delegates in my precinct and as did the majority of delegates that day. There is a reason. We spent several months studying the incumbents voting record and listening to the candidates positions on the issues. It is time for a change and to have our representative in Congress truly listen to us and represent our views. "Temporary Guest Worker Programs" are the height of arrogance from our elected officials - they are not guests and they are not here temporarily. It is time for a change. Vote for John Jacob.

David Rodeback replies:

I changed some ALL CAPS (a lot like yelling) in the above comment to conventional punctuation, but I didn't make any apostrophes disappear. The two missing above were absent from the original e-mailed comment. (I may not be above calling attention to poor use of language by a public figure -- such as a candidate or a blogger or other writer, but I am above damaging it myself and blaming someone else.)

Speaking of change, I think Chris Cannon is more likely to lead to positive change. And surely any government which could get its act together enough to expel illegal aliens could also enforce the "temporary" and the "guest" in "temporary guest worker." In fact, that would probably be easier.

"The guy" (see above) adds:

I think the race was a dead heat two weeks ago and the President's endorsement gave Chris a 3% bump and then John's comments cost him 3% -hence Chris 56%, John 44%.

John is a class act, a great American with a big heart and will help Chris get re-elected and will be a force in the Republican Party here in Utah from now on.

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