Utah Republicans are heading to the polls today to determine the fate of Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah), a six-term congressman who is facing the fight of his political career largely over his moderate-to-liberal position on immigration.
Cannon’s predicament is not new for him: Since 2004, he has faced regular primary opposition from his right over his stance on border security, but has prevailed each time.
But there are indications that the third time might not be the charm for Cannon. His Republican opponent, Jason Chaffetz, is a former chief of staff to Gov. Jon Huntsman and has shown more political savvy than Cannon’s previous primary rivals. And he has been criticizing Cannon for being soft on border security enforcement and for being out-of-touch with his constituency in and around Provo and Salt Lake City.
A newly conducted poll shows Cannon leading Chaffetz by only a four-point margin – 44 to 40 percent – well within the survey’s 5.5 percent margin of error. The poll, conducted by Dan Jones and Associates last week, surveyed 312 registered voters within the district.
Chaffetz nearly won the Republican party’s nomination outright at the district convention in May, winning 59 percent of delegate votes – one percent short of victory. Because no candidate carried 60 percent of the vote, the race headed into today’s primary.
Cannon has drawn fire from immigration hawks over his more tolerant view of illegal immigration. In 2002, he said at a Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund dinner: “We love immigrants in Utah. We don’t make distinctions between legal and illegal.”
He has a legislative record to back up his past rhetoric: Cannon has supported legislation that would allow illegal immigrants to receive guest worker status and he sponsored legislation allowing foreign nationals to earn legal status through work. In 2003, he sponsored a bill that would give children of illegal immigrants in-state college tuition.
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