Ten-time political reject Merrill Cook has decided to play the spoiler at the last minute, just months before the Utah State GOP Convention. Cook has inexplicably decided to jump into the already-crowded Republican race against incumbent Utah Senator Bob Bennett, already populated with Mike Lee, Cherilyn Eagar, and Tim Bridgewater. Just moments ago, James Williams III announced his departure from the race and his endorsement of Tim Bridgewater. I would have thought that Williams would have endorsed Eagar, but Williams is an enterpreneur, and Bridgewater is also an enterpreneur, so there's a natural connection between the two.
Media stories published by the Deseret News and KSL Channel 5. Also picked up by CNN Political Ticker and The Hill. An Examiner article highlights his idiosyncracies.
Cook pledged that if he wins, he will serve only one six-year term. He said that would free him from any need to seek money from special interests to fund a re-election. He said Bennett has taken too much money from special interests, and is too beholden to them. Cook said other issues he will push as a candidate include opposing illegal immigration and amnesty for illegal aliens; fighting gun control; opposing same-sex marriage; and fighting abortion. A holdover campaign website from 2008 provides more information on his platform.
But should Merrill Cook be considered a serious candidate? Elected twice to the U.S. House of Representatives from District 2, presently represented by Democrat Jim Matheson, Cook has since become nothing more than a common political whore, desperate for public attention. His 10 unsuccessful races since his U.S. House stint include three for the 2nd District House seat he once held, two for governor in 1988 and 1992, and one each for the 3rd District House seat, Salt Lake City mayor in 1985, Salt Lake County mayor in 2004, Salt Lake County commissioner in 1986, and a Utah Board of Education seat in 1984, which was his first shot at elective office.
Meanwhile, Cherilyn Eagar lashed out against Cook with some devastating allegations of her own which strike directly at the heart of Cook's personal integrity. In this statement, Eagar claims that just four days ago, Cook met with her and assured her that he was not interested in running for the Senate. Taking him at his word, Eagar then sought his help for her race, sharing "confidential and strategic info" which she said is critical to her race. Armed with that proprietary knowledge, Cook then turned around and jumped into the race himself. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Merrill Cook is said to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; his purported behavior is totally inconsistent with the values and standards promoted by the LDS Church.
For his part, Cook denies telling Eagar that he was not running for the Senate and says she never shared any proprietary information with him.
Despite the exit of Williams, the entry of Cook still muddies up the race. Why did Cook wait so long to enter the race? And why does he find the remaining conservative challengers unsuitable? Cook's candidacy at this point is illogical, and is likely to fragment the opposition, making it easier for Bob Bennett to finish either first or second at the state convention and at least get into a primary fight. Cook has to know he will not finish either first or second, so is his real purpose to serve as a false flag operative to hand the nomination to Bennett? Don't forget, George W. Bush's former hatchetman Karl Rove has been involved in the Bennett campaign, so dirty tricks are not outside the realm of possibility.
Time will tell. Hopefully, delegates will see through the opportunism and give Cook the peremptory boot.