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Granato, Lee looking ahead to November Senate election



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SALT LAKE CITY -- One of the highest profile races in the state has changed. Tuesday night's primary determined Republican Mike Lee will face Democrat Sam Granato in November.

The result came after a hard fight between Lee and Tim Bridgewater in the Republican primary.

The Lee-Granato face-off is still months away, but there's a question a lot of people are asking: How much of a race is it going to be?

It's not over until it's over

Granato says he resents any talk that the race is already decided -- that the election is a formality and that Lee is as good as in office already.

A lot of people are saying that across the state.

Kirk Jowers with the Hinckley Institute of Politics said, "It looks like a cakewalk at the moment for Mike Lee into the U.S. Senate."

A congratulatory news release from Sen. Bob Bennett about a Lee Senate victory went out after the primary, which Granato chalked up to a "typographical error."

But it's not over until it's over, and Lee made it clear that he's not taking anything for granted.

"We've got four-and-a-half months between now and the November election," he said. "We're taking nothing for granted at this point. The general election is held in November. There won't really be time to celebrate until November, because that's when voters will decide who their next Senator will be."

Granato promises a hard-fought contest, but can he deliver?

At his flagship restaurant at 1391 S. 300 West in Salt Lake City Wednesday, he was greeting his customers as he always does. He vows a fight up until Election Day.

To those who say he doesn't have a chance, Granato said, "I say 'Hooey,' is what I've got to tell you. I fully plan to be the next United States senator."

"We have to give ourselves more credit than that," Granato said. "I've heard that, 'You're just another sheep.' I'm not in it to be another sheep."

Lee is also not willing to say the race is a foregone conclusion.

On the heels of his primary night victory, he was in demand for speaking engagements, talk radio and other interviews.

Candidates focus on issues, differences

Lee says after the convention fight and primary, it will now be relatively easy for him to distinguish himself from Granato. The two differ on many different issues.

Lee has been focusing on the right-wing tea partiers in order to appeal to conservatives at the convention and primary. He said Wednesday he's not planning on changing much for the general election. Even though the audience will be different, Lee says his message will not change.

"Obviously we're targeting our message to a broader group and that may require a different strategy as far as communicating the message," he said. "The message itself is unchanged."

Granato says he plans to appeal to the majority of the state, which he says is more moderate than Lee. A former Republican himself, Granato is taking a page from Tim Bridgewater's playbook: Casting himself as the small-business owner with real-world experience in finances.

He says it's a stark contrast to Lee's attorney-based background.

"I'm running because I love the Constitution as much as the next person in the United States," Granato said. "But the people need -- we need jobs created, we need to care about our constituents, and that's what the message needs to be."

This race is one of several happening this year, including the races for governor, U.S. Congress, local and legislative races.

Lee can now rest -- just for a little bit -- before really gearing up for the November election. But very soon, it'll be back to the campaign trail for both of them.

There is a summer of politics to look forward to.

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Story compiled with contributions from Richard Piatt and Adam Thomas.

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Richard Piatt

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