Huntsman Wins GOP Gubernatorial Primary

Huntsman Wins GOP Gubernatorial Primary

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Jon Huntsman Jr. defeated Nolan Karras Tuesday in the Republican race for governor, forcing an election that will pit the wealthy industrialist against Scott Matheson Jr., dean of the University of Utah law school and the son of Utah's last Democratic governor.

The Associated Press declared Huntsman the winner after he pushed to an early but insurmountable statistical lead in the voting. With nearly a third of precincts reporting, Huntsman -- who had shown an overwhelming lead in pre-election polls -- had collected more than 65 percent of the vote.

Huntsman had long been the strong favorite over Karras, a former Utah House Speaker and Board of Regents chairman.

Other Republicans in the primary are 2nd Congressional District challengers John Swallow and Tim Bridgewater, who ran against each other two years ago. Once again, the winner will face two-term incumbent Jim Matheson, Scott Matheson's brother. In 2002, Matheson prevailed over Swallow by just 1,641 votes for a district that was redrawn to favor the GOP in Republican-heavy Utah.

Early results showed Swallow holding a 5-point lead over Bridgewater, with about 20 percent of the precincts reporting.

In the 3rd Congressional District, Republican incumbent Chris Cannon took a wide lead over challenger Matt Throckmorton in a race the U.S. Justice Department will monitor due to allegations of possible voter fraud. Cannon was leading with 62 percent of the vote with more than 20 percent of precincts reporting.

Poll results published Monday in the Deseret Morning News of a survey by Dan Jones & Associates showed Huntsman leading Karras 57 percentage points to 18 points -- statistically unchanged from a similar survey a month ago.

Karras has long acknowledged the uphill battle against Huntsman's name recognition. Huntsman is the oldest child of entrepreneur Jon Huntsman, who amassed a fortune of more than $2 billion with a conglomerate of chemical companies that gained fame in the 1970s for inventing the clamshell container for the McDonald's "Big Mac" hamburger.

The newspaper's poll also showed Bridgewater and Swallow were in a statistical tie just before the election, with nearly a third of voters still undecided and 15 percent either favoring someone else or not planning to vote at all.

State elections director Amy Naccarato had predicted an 18 to 20 percent voter turnout for the primary.

Immigration reform groups have campaigned against Cannon, distributing a transcript from a Spanish-language radio program in which they alleged Cannon and an aide encouraged illegal immigrants to vote and donate to Cannon's campaign, a claim Cannon spokesman has called "ridiculous."

Nevertheless, the U.S. Justice Department on Friday it would send attorneys to monitor the primary.

Incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett did not face a primary opponent, and is favored to win a third term in the fall.

Voters who are unaffiliated may cast Republican ballots if they sign allegiance to the GOP at the polls. Registered members of other parties are banned from voting in the partisan races.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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