Mia Love clinches Republican nomination at Utah convention
By Robert Gehrke
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Apr 26 2014 12:57PM
Sandy • After losing to Rep. Jim Matheson in 2012 by a razor-thin margin, Republican Mia Love will get another shot at going to Congress, this time taking on Doug Owens, the son of a former congressman.
Love, who gained national prominence in her first campaign, clinched the party’s nomination by securing more than 78 percent of the vote Saturday from Republican delegates in the 4th Congressional District against opponent Bob Fuehr.
Love said she met with more delegates during the past five weeks than the nearly 850 who actually showed up from her district to vote at the state GOP convention at South Towne Expo Center.
"I am honored to have their support. They really make this process awesome for me. This is my favorite part," she said. "Going on from here, we are going to work hard. We are not going to take anything for granted. I am going to go out and earn every vote and really amplify Utah’s voice."
Utah’s three Republican incumbent members of Congress — Rep. Rob Bishop, Rep. Chris Stewart and Rep. Jason Chaffetz — all won their party’s nomination convincingly.
In other races Saturday, GOP delegates knocked Rep. Jerry Anderson, R-Price, out of the running and sent former Sen. Casey Anderson and Sen. Evan Vickers, both of Cedar City, to a rematch of their 2012 contest.
Delegates also passed a resolution urging the Republican Party to fight against a law passed during the last legislative session that would dilute the power of future party conventions, and to fight for an effort calling on the federal government to turn over tens of millions of acres of federal land to the state.
Love emerged from a crowded field to capture the Republican nomination two years ago. Then, in a hard-fought contest with millions of dollars of national money pouring in on both sides, she lost to Matheson by 768 votes out of nearly a quarter of a million ballots cast.
The former mayor of Saratoga Springs barely stopped running, re-launching her campaign soon after the defeat, but the seven-term incumbent Matheson — the lone Democrat in Utah’s congressional delegation — decided not to seek re-election.
Love has already raised more than $2 million in her second bid for the 4th District seat. Fuehr raised less than $300,000.
New system • Saturday’s Republican and Democratic conventions could be the final gatherings before a new law takes effect that will significantly overhaul how candidates are picked.
The group Count My Vote, led by former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt and other influential and well-heeled Republicans, launched a petition drive last year to put a measure on the ballot to strip the party conventions of most of their authority, arguing the caucus-convention system is exclusionary and doesn’t represent the average Utahn.
The Count My Vote proposal would have forced candidates to collect signatures and compete for party nominations in primary elections.
After the group spent more than $1 million and gathered most of the signatures the group would need, Utah lawmakers passed a compromise version that allows the conventions to continue, but lets candidates circumvent the delegate process by gathering signatures to qualify for a primary battle.
The new petition-passing system of direct primaries is scheduled to kick in for the 2016 election. But GOP delegates Saturday overwhelmingly approved a resolution urging the party to challenge the constitutionality of the new law, arguing the state cannot tell private organizations how to conduct their business.
"Legal precedents show if we challenge the law, we will win," said Michael Wilson, the sponsor of the resolution, who said that only the party has legal standing to challenge the new law. "Failure to do so is unacceptable."
The prospect of a legal challenge puts the party in a sticky spot, since many of the GOP’s wealthy donors supported Count My Vote and gave money to the cause.
Utah Republican Party Chairman James Evans would not discuss the party’s potential response to the change in the nominating system, saying it would be unwise to broadcast the strategy.
U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, who will be up for election in 2016 and may have more riding on the kind of nominating system in place than any other candidate, received a thunderous standing ovation from the nearly 4,000 delegates — easily the loudest and longest of any of the elected officials who spoke Saturday.
The first-term senator said the federal government has no business telling citizens when they can visit their doctor and spying on phone calls and email and that Americans should expect better.
Other races • In state legislative races, first-term state Rep. Jerry Anderson, a retired science teacher who made waves earlier this year by arguing that the environment needs more carbon dioxide, not less, was bounced from the eastern Utah seat he won from Rep. Christine Watkins two years ago. Watkins left the Democratic Party after her loss and challenged Anderson this year as a Republican. But Bill Labrum, an auto dealer from Roosevelt, won the nomination. He will face former Rep. Brad King, the Democratic nominee.
"I don’t have a résumé of what I’ve accomplished in the Legislature. My résumé is my life," Labrum said.
Casey Anderson got 86 votes to Vickers’ 59 votes, coming one vote shy of capturing the nomination at convention, meaning the two will face off in a rematch of their 2012 primary fight that Vickers won.
Ann Millner, the former president of Weber State University, won the nomination over Lars Birkeland in the contest to replace retiring Sen. Stuart Reid in the Ogden Senate district.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher won the nomination in his Magna, West Valley and Tooele County district; Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal, clinched the nod in his mostly rural district.
In key House races decided Saturday, Scott Sandall won the nomination to replace retiring Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, in her northern Utah district and Scott Chew won the party’s nod to replace retiring Rep. John Mathis of Vernal.
Matt Canham contributed to this report.