While Jason Chaffetz followed through and formally announced his candidacy against incumbent 3rd District Republican Congressman Chris Cannon today, he did not gain sole proprietorship of the political spotlight. Former Juab County Attorney David Leavitt (pictured above left) announced his own bid to unseat Cannon, and there's speculation that former Congressman Merrill Cook and 2006 Cannon opponent John Jacob will also enter the fray. Full stories published in the Deseret Morning News and the Salt Lake Tribune.
Leavitt, who is the brother of former three-term governor and current Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, has formed a campaign committee and filed notice with the Federal Elections Commission that he will run against Cannon. His campaign website is still under construction, containing only his picture at present. Leavitt's primary claim to fame: As a former Juab County prosecutor, he successfully got polygamist Tom Green convicted of and sent to prison for bigamy and fathering a child with a 13-year-old girl. The case was not a slam dunk; unlike the cadaverous and phlegmatic Warren Jeffs, Tom Green proved to be an articulate and positive spokesman for the polygamist community, generating considerable sympathy amongst the hard right and survivalists. And considering that gay marriage is becoming more legalized, it will become increasingly difficult to justify existing constraints against plural marriage, particularly if it is done for religious reasons. While gay marriage is considered by traditional Americans to be the wrong thing, plural marriage, which involves heterosexual relations, is increasingly viewed as simply "too much of the right thing".
And apparently Juab County voters either had short memories or were more sympathetic towards Tom Green than originally believed. In 2002, David Leavitt narrowly lost his re-election bid for Juab County attorney by 22 votes. He then returned to the private sector, starting up the Leavitt Institute for International Development in partnership with his wife.
"Now that the Democrats have taken control of Congress, I believe we need a congressman that has a skill set that is able to work with a different political landscape than we've had the last 12 or 14 years," Leavitt said. "It's time for a re-evaluation of who we send to Congress." Leavitt only recently filed and hasn't had to file a disclosure form. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) doesn't require candidates, like Chaffetz, with just exploratory committees to disclose contributions.
John Jacob, who Cannon defeated last year in the Republican primary, said Tuesday it's "highly likely" he will challenge Cannon again in 2008, while former Utah Rep. Merrill Cook, who finished third to Cannon and Jacob at last year's Republican convention, said it's possible he'll join the race, too. However, Merrill Cook is clearly no alternative to Cannon on immigration; during the period 1997-2001 when he represented Utah's then-2nd Congressional District, Americans for Better Immigration rated him a dismal "D" on his immigration votes. Some of Merrill Cook's votes on issues can be found HERE.
But Jason Chaffetz (pictured at left) is apparently not put off by the expanding number of challengers. "The failings of Mr. Cannon are so evident, obviously there is going to be a number of challengers," Chaffetz said. "All I can do is put my best foot forward and see if I'm the right messenger with the right message."
Having already decided to seek a seventh term, Chris Cannon apparently welcomes the debate promised by a crowded race, but only if it doesn't involve what he considered untruths about his immigration stance. "We haven't had much debate (in 3rd District races)," he said. "Instead, we've had a lot of exaggerations and distortions. In the last two (election) cycles, we've had a lot of statements that weren't true."
Cannon vigorously defends his record on immigration. "I have a 100 percent voting record in favor of enforcement," Cannon said. He further stated that he is heavily involved in the House committee considering immigration reform that will propose offering various kinds of legal status for illegal immigrants, some likely with and some without pathways to citizenship. He claims he is arguing against giving illegal immigrants who become citizens credit for what they paid into Social Security while they worked illegally in the United States.
However, Americans for Better Immigration gave Cannon an overall letter grade of "C-", with an "F" on both amnesty and on guest workers. And Cannon's previous views on immigration reform have been anything but pro-American. An article published on May 11th, 2005 on the Institute for Immigration Policy Review website shows Cannon's true perspective on immigration. Here's the pertinent excerpt:
Rep. Cannon's attitude toward the Bush administration is one of utter servility. His relationship with the “Reconquista Lobby” foundation-funded open borders groups like the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and La Raza is close kindred to treason.
In March 2003, Cannon helped create the U.S.-Mexico Political Caucus. In a June 6, 2002 speech to a gathering of MALDEF, where he was presented with the group's Excellence in Leadership Award,” Cannon declared: “We love immigrants in Utah. And we don't oftentimes make the distinction between legal and illegal. In fact I think Utah was the first state in the country to legislate the ability to get a driver's license based on the matricula consular [card] and of that I am proud.” The "matricula" card referred to by Cannon is an insecure ID card issued by Mexican consulates to Mexican nationals in this country, whether here legally or illegally.
During the 2004 campaign, Cannon faced an unexpected primary challenge by immigration reform candidate Matt Throckmorton, who offered a strong showing despite being outspent by several orders of magnitude. On several occasions Cannon accused his immigration-reform critics of being in league with eugenicists, neo-Nazis, and other despicable folks. Cannon plumbed similar depths of dishonesty during the May 4th  discussion.
“I don't think there's a place in the Republican Party for racism, for xenophobia, for ideas that are fundamentally un-American,” groused the Reconquista Lobby's favorite Republican congressman. Referring to Rep. Tancredo, Cannon declared: “I think he ought to consider his views and decide whether they're consistent with the Republican Party.”
See for yourself who Chris Cannon has crawled into bed with politically. Here's a short YouTube video showing the objectives of La Raza:
Chris Cannon's financial summary through 2006 can be found HERE. Note that 63.3% percent of his contributions came from PACs. His complete voting record can be found on VoteSmart.
On the other side of the coin, Cannon does have the highest rating among Utah members of Congress from the American Conservative Union and the highest rating in Utah from Americans for Tax Reform. His special interest rating record shows that he is consistently pro-Second Amendment, earning high marks from the Gun Owners of America, considered by many to be the more genuine gun rights organization. He also gets high ratings from pro-family groups like the Christian Coalition.
Nevertheless, Cannon's equivocation on immigration has made him vulnerable to a serious challenge once again, but this time, he's attracted a host of eminently-qualified opponents. The question is, will Cannon's opponents fight over the same anti-Cannon constituency, which would allow Cannon to get the requisite 60% of the delegate votes at the state Republican convention necessary to enable him to avoid a primary contest? Or can any of the challengers make serious inroads into Cannon's core consituency of kool-aid drinkers?
Merrill Cook's weak immigration record does not cast him as a serious alternative to Chris Cannon, and I predict that if Cook jumps in, he'll fall fast by the wayside. John Jacob may have the money, but his ill-advised "Satan" remark in 2006 may still typecast him as a "screw-loose" candidate; he should stay out of the race.
Consequently, that leaves Jason Chaffetz and David Leavitt. Both appear to have solid conservative credentials. But the challenger who can best combined Cannon's solid pro-life, pro-family, and pro-gun positions with a genuine immigration reform package that includes deportation of most illegals and scaling back the corrupted H-1B program will be the challenger who succeeds in "spiking the Cannon in 2008". Above all, Chaffetz and Leavitt should each spend more time running against Cannon than against each other.