Republican voters in Utah ousted Rep. Chris Cannon in Tuesday’s GOP primary, expressing their dissatisfaction with the six-term congressman over his left-of-center positions on immigration by nominating a challenger who made crackdowns on illegal immigration a central part of his platform.
Cannon was trounced by Jason Chaffetz, the former chief of staff to Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-Utah.) With 93 percent of precincts reporting, Cannon trails Chaffetz by 20 points – 60 to 40 percent. The AP has called the race for Chaffetz.
With his loss, Cannon becomes the third member of Congress to lose in their own party’s primary. Two members of Congress from Maryland, Democrat Al Wynn and Republican Wayne Gilchrest also were defeated in primaries held in February.
Chaffetz is near-guaranteed to become the next congressman for Utah’s Third District, which is one of the most Republican districts in the country. The seat, based in suburban Salt Lake City and Provo, gave President Bush 77 percent of the vote in 2004.
Immigration was the driving factor behind Cannon’s unpopularity with the district’s Republican base. Despite sporting a near-perfect score from the American Conservative Union, Cannon alienated border security hawks over the past several years with his belief that illegal immigrants should be eligible for certain government benefits.
In 2003, Cannon sponsored a bill that would give children of illegal immigrants in-state college tuition. And he has also supported legislation that would allow illegal immigrants to receive guest worker status.
By contrast, Chaffetz advocated gradually deporting illegal immigrants out of the United States, and also said he supports removing automatic citizenship for children born to illegal immigrants in the country.
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