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Race Tightens for Chaffetz’s House Seat a Day Before Primary

Race Tightens for Chaffetz’s House Seat a Day Before Primary

Establishment vs. Outsiders

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) shocked the country last year when he said he planned to step down from his seat. Now those in his GOP-dominated district will hit the polls on Tuesday to determine the GOP candidate for the special election, who will probably have no problem winning next November.

Who will win tomorrow? The GOP establishment has backed a candidate “with a Democratic past” while two other candidates have received backing “from national GOP heavy-hitters.” Massive money donations from outside super PACs have also helped narrow the lead from the establishment pick.

These are the three candidates:

John Curtis, the Provo mayor who has drawn support from the GOP’s more moderate flank, is the only candidate who didn’t vote for Trump, saying he had significant moral concerns about supporting the billionaire businessman.

Tanner Ainge, the son of Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge endorsed by Sarah Palin, said he voted for Trump because he always votes for the Republican candidate in presidential elections.

Chris Herrod, a former state lawmaker backed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, is the most vocal supporter of Trump. He said he did not think it was necessary for a special prosecutor to be appointed to look into possible ties between the president’s campaign and Russia.

Veteran Utah Republican strategist Boyd Matheson told the Associated Press that “Curtis has outraised his opponents and drawn most of their barbs.” But as his campaign became more negative, the race has tightened.

Now Matheson said the race could go any which way. Veteran Utah GOP consultant Dave Hansen said this is “not a race [where] I would want to bet the farm on who was going to win.”

Outside spending has also helped the race tighten between the three candidates. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that outside super PACs “spent nearly $853,000 since May.” Most of the money has produced “negative ads aimed at Curtis.”

Curtis led Herrod by 20 points in a Utah Policy poll in July. That same Utah Policy poll now has Curtis ahead by only 8 points.

Club for Growth Action has contributed $296,900 behind Herrod:

The spending by that one super PAC alone tops that by any of the candidates’ personal campaign committees: Herrod has spent $48,600, Curtis $264,800 and Ainge $110,800, according to their most recent reports to the Federal Election Commission.

In one television commercial — a Halloween-themed ad with pumpkins and bats — Club for Growth Action says Curtis and Ainge are “busy pretending to be conservatives” and features the two political hopefuls in masks. It then compares Ainge to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Why? Because he used the word “bipartisan” once on his campaign website.

It seems like a lot of money for a race in Utah where we know the GOP candidate will win the election. From Fox 13:

So why so much outside money spent on a Utah race? Marty Carpenter, a former campaign manager for Governor Gary Herbert, says it’s pretty simple: Utah is the only game in town because of the special election necessitated by the resignation of Representative Jason Chaffetz.

“Frankly they have money to spend, and they want to go out and see if they can have the influence they want to have in this election,” Carpenter said.

GOP strategist Chuck Warren had another explanation, according to Roll Call:

“Whoever we elect — unless he does something dumb personally or misappropriates funds — is going to be there for a decade or more,” GOP strategist Chuck Warren said.

This race presented an opportunity to elect an ally on a host of issues such as health care, taxes and government spending, Warren added.


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