No primary needed; delegates drive a stake through the heart of political correctness.
Post updated May 4th, 2008 with some additional pertinent information.
I didn't think he could do it. With such low poll ratings, I thought the best possible outcome for incumbent District 10 Senator Chris Buttars at the Salt Lake County Republican Convention held May 3rd, 2008 in Sandy would be a primary contest between himself and leading challenger Gary Armstrong.
But it did happen. Buttars won renomination outright by getting 60.2 percent of the delegate vote, prevailing over Armstrong, Trevor Darby, and Kathy Hilton. Full stories by the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune and KTVX Channel 4 and KSL Channel 5. All previous Chris Buttars posts HERE. Additional Utah blog reaction can be found HERE.
But even at the very last moment, a primary contest between Buttars and Armstrong was still possible. But that last possibility was extinguished when Armstrong, in a commendable act of selflessness, refused to challenge the discarding of a spoiled ballot even though, had it been added to his total, would have put him over the 40 percent mark to force a run-off. The ballot in question was spoiled when a delegate marked more than one name. Nevertheless, Armstrong did express disappointment with the outcome, and intends to support Democrat John Rendell.
"Our district can't survive four more years of Chris Buttars. I will support the Democrat. I'm very surprised the delegates drank the Kool-Aid. I'm disappointed they have that little concern for the district", said Armstrong.
Buttars, a two-term incumbent, now goes on to face Democrat John Rendell in the November general election. The fact that Gary Armstrong intends to support Rendell indicates that Rendell is more of a "blue-dog Democrat" after the manner of Jim Matheson, rather than a socialist Democrat like Nancy Pelosi. The Constitution Party is supplying its own opponent in the person of Steve Maxfield.
When he learned of Armstrong's decision to support Rendell, Buttars said he was "absolutely shocked", adding, "He's a real party man, eh?" As to close margin of his victory, he compared it to a basketball game. "One point or 50 points, it's a win". But Buttars admits the campaign so far has been tough because of his racially charged comment earlier this year that prompted calls for his resignation from the NAACP. "It's been five months of the 'hate Chris Buttars parade,'" he said. "I never took anything for granted".
While Buttars was frozen out of a number of local "Meet The Candidate" events, this was effectively countered by a last minute decision by the Utah Senate leadership to officially endorse Buttars. In addition, the passage of time tends to heal many wounds, and many initially shocked by Buttars' "black baby" remark soon came to their senses, disgusted perhaps by the ferocity of the elites' reaction against Buttars. Many of Buttars' critics didn't merely attack Buttars, but also defamed and smeared the people of District 10 as well. This may have well triggered additional backlash in Buttars' favor.
Obviously, it's way too early to handicap November, but if John Rendell accepts Gary Armstrong's support and enlists him in his campaign, it could prove to be a nip-and-tuck contest. But I believe Buttars can prevail if he watches his mouth.
I am somewhat befuddled by the fact that the delegate vote in favor of Buttars was so much more favorable than the sentiment indicated by earlier polls. It makes me wonder whether the delegates are truly representative of the district. However, the Deseret News story may provide one answer. District 10 delegates were hit with an anonymous mailer Thursday and Friday, criticizing Buttars' actions and saying he couldn't win re-election. Asked by the Deseret News where the mailer could have come from, Buttars said: "This is the same ghost PAC of the national gays — that was an ugly thing to do on Friday when (I) can't reply."
The mailer says it was paid for "by Senate District 10 Citizens for Fair Taxation" — but there is no such group registered with the state elections office. The mailer quotes an earlier Deseret News poll of Senate District 10 registered voters that found 67 percent saying Buttars shouldn't be re-elected, and 54 percent of District 10 Republicans said someone new should serve. Perhaps the delegates were offended by the mailer.
But a May 4th story published by the Salt Lake Tribune provides an additional answer. Trevor Darby, eliminated in the first round of balloting, threw his support to Buttars as the nominee and urged the 28 delegates who backed him to vote for Buttars. Darby said he was concerned about the district keeping a conservative voice.
But now that Chris Buttars has partially vindicated himself, the smart thing for him would be to show magnamity and reach out to the district in a spirit of reconciliation.