Utah conservatives strategize to take out Matheson

Save Story
Leer en espaƱol

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY -- Two days after Utah conservatives took down powerful three-term Senator Bob Bennett, they're getting national publicity and taking aim at a new target: incumbent Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson.

KSL has learned of a new social networking campaign using Twitter and Facebook to convince conservatives to infiltrate the Democratic party to vote against Matheson to -- in theory -- have a more beatable candidate come the general election.


It's part of a national anti-incumbent wave that's thrust Utah's Tea Party movement to the top of the political pecking order.

That anti-incumbent movement feels emboldened after Sen. Bob Bennett's own party ousted him. Now, Tea Party activists point to that race and say it proves their power.

Still, is the following big enough to defeat Matheson in his own primary?

Not long after Utah's Republican delegates booted Bennett, conservative activist Chase Everton set his sights on the other big race in the other party.

Roughly 1,000 people follow his tweets, and have this objective in common:

"They're, 'Throw all the bums out,'" Everton said. "At times it's gotten personal, but I think we've got to be civil."

Here's how they plan to throw out Matheson.

The Republican primary is closed: only Republicans can vote for either Mike Lee or Tim Bridgewater on June 22. But the Democratic primary is open to any registered voter.

I think their vote will be better served by taking out that power of the incumbency, and that's by helping Claudia Wright.

–Conservative activist Chase Everton

In Everton's plan, conservatives skip the Republican primary and vote for incumbent Jim Matheson's opponent Claudia Wright.

Conservatives think Republican Morgan Philpot can beat Wright in November, while Matheson has statewide support.

"I think their vote will be better served by taking out that power of the incumbency, and that's by helping Claudia Wright," Everton said.

In addition to the Tweets, invitations for this strategic Claudia Wright Facebook page went out Monday night.

Already there's a following to this fledgling movement.

"This isn't a conservative or liberal or Republican or Democrat issue. This is an issue of responsibility," said David Kirkham, a replica sports car maker out of Provo who organized Utah's first Tea Party a year ago. He says voting for TARP put the bullseye on Bennett, and big government has gone too far.

After Saturday's success, the political neophyte is practically a conservative celebrity, interviewed by CNN and "The New York Times" and the "Christian Science Monitor."

He's says big government has gone too far, and the movement is just getting started. So many people are upset about the current level of government spending, he says, that the movement has gathered plenty of followers.

"The result of those policies are fiscal and financial disaster," Kirkham said. "It has been proven over the course of 10,000 years -- when they get involved and they start to control everything, it comes at a cost."

Others question the cost to conservative political advantage by dumping Bennett. F. Dennis Farnsworth, a UVU Political Science Professor, says the Utah Republican Party too easily cast off an experienced senator with clout.

"They were willing to let go of him in favor of two people who have never served in an elective office before. That is just almost an unbelievable situation," he said.

Bennett's defeat marks the first time in seven decades a sitting U.S. senator from Utah failed to win his party's nomination. That's quite a shake-up, and these activists hope just the beginning.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com

Related stories

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics

Jed Boal


    Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the KSL.com Trending 5.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast