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2 Republicans, 1 Democrat Seek Reelection to Congress

2 Republicans, 1 Democrat Seek Reelection to Congress

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Voters went to the Tuesday to decide if Utah's three incumbent congressmen should return to Washington, D.C., in a year when many states have close races and political observers vary in their forecasts for changes to the balance of power.

In Utah, recent polls showed the incumbents each had a comfortable lead.

Rep. Jim Matheson is Utah's lone Democrat in Washington and is running for his fourth term in a heavily Republican state. Matheson, 46, is the son of popular Democratic former Gov. Scott Matheson and is a moderate Democrat, whose conservative votes have made him popular in Utah's 2nd District.

His opponent LaVar Christensen, 53, has served in the Utah House of Representatives since 2002. He has sought to endear himself to voters by describing himself as a "Ronald Reagan" conservative and pledging to oppose gay marriage, abortion and retreat from Iraq.

Republican Reps. Chris Cannon, 56, and Rob Bishop, 55, were challenged by two Democratic newcomers who answered their state party's call to run for office.

Steve Olsen, 49, Bishop's challenger, hadn't planned to run for Congress, but after the former Republican wrote a booklet titled, "Why Most Utahns Are Democrats But Just Don't Know It Yet," state Democratic Party leaders took notice and asked him to be a "messenger" in Utah's 1st District.

Cannon's opponent Christian Burridge, a 31-year-old attorney, answered an e-mail sent out by the state party that read, "No one is running against Chris Cannon." The plea caught Burridge's attention and forced him to speed up plans to run for a 3rd District seat, a notion he had entertained for some point in the future.

Both Cannon and Bishop campaigned on their experience and seniority, contending their years in Congress benefit constituents.

Bishop, a former teacher who landed in Congress after serving as Utah House speaker and state Republican chairman, has won his two terms with more than 60 percent of the vote each time.

Cannon has represented the 3rd District since 1996 and has come the closest in Utah's delegation to the ethics scandal that has plagued Washington this year, but has seen no political fallout. Questions have surfaced over his dealing with his lobbyist brother, Joe, and Cannon's former chief of staff, David Safavian, who was convicted in June of covering up his dealings with lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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