Few Voters Expected for Closed Republican Primary

Few Voters Expected for Closed Republican Primary

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- With most of the races on Tuesday's primary election closed to all but registered Republicans, officials predicted relatively few eligible voters would turn out to choose between Jon Huntsman Jr. and Nolan Karras in the party gubernatorial race.

Huntsman was the strong favorite over Karras, a former Utah House Speaker and Board of Regents chairman. The winner will face Democrat Scott Matheson Jr., dean of the University of Utah law school and the son of Utah's last Democratic governor.

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.

In the 3rd Congressional District, Republican incumbent Chris Cannon was expected to triumph easily over challenger Matt Throckmorton in a race the U.S. Justice Department will monitor due to allegations of possible voter fraud.

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 is predicting an 18 to 20 percent voter turnout for Tuesday's 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 Tuesday's primary.

Incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett does not face a primary opponent before the general election. He 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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