UT Senate: GOP delegates send Bennett home

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) was not able to convince Republican delegates to send him back to Washington for a fourth term, setting up a primary between Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater on June 22nd:

Facing significant anger aimed at Washington and at some of his past votes, Utah’s Republican Sen. Robert Bennett was eliminated Saturday from seeking re-election to a fourth term, becoming the first incumbent to fall victim to the growing anti-Washington mood ahead of the 2010 mid-term elections.

Bennett came in third in a second round of balloting at the state party convention behind more conservative candidates Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee. Lee and Bridgewater now will face off in one final round of balloting to see if one can get 60 percent of the vote. If not, then they will face each other in a June primary.

Bridgewater garnered 37.42 percent of the vote while Lee got 35.99 percent. Bennett was eliminated with 26.59 percent of the vote.
While Bennett had won the support of several conservative organizations and has received negative ratings from liberal groups, some of Bennett’s critics focused on his vote for the 2008 financial bailout, known as TARP.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of conservative. I think it’s a matter of fiscal or financial responsibility, what the Tea Party people are about and the vote for TARP and the vote for the bailout was, in our opinion, pretty fiscally irresponsible and that’s what’s raised the ire of most people,” David Kirkham, a Tea Party activist, told CNN in an interview.

To win without a primary, a candidate had to receive 60% of the vote. Bridgewater came close in the last round of balloting edging Lee 57% to 43%.

The Club for Growth ran ads in the state against Bennett criticizing him for his support of corporate welfare and bailouts and the health care proposal he authored with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), which the Club maintains was worse than ObamaCare.

The group issued this statement yesterday:

Utah Republicans made the right decision today for their state, and sent a clear message that change is finally coming to Washington.  The media may report this as Bob Bennett’s loss, but we see it as a victory for Utah, for the United States Senate, and for the cause of economic freedom.

Our goal all along was to ensure Utah Republicans knew about Bob Bennett’s true record in the Senate, so that they could make an informed decision today.  The results show that we succeeded in that effort, and I thank the delegates for taking their considered attention.

Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater are genuine pro-growth conservatives, and we wish both the best of luck in next round of balloting.

While many were playing down the tea party movement’s impact in elections after Tuesday’s primaries in Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio, the GOP convention in Utah should change that perception.

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