Republican Duo Battles to Take on Utah's Only Democratic Congressman

Republican Duo Battles to Take on Utah's Only Democratic Congressman

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah Republicans were deciding a challenger Tuesday to run against the state's only Democratic congressman.

The second-term incumbent, Jim Matheson, is considered vulnerable in heavily Republican Utah. In 2002 he managed to hold on to his 2nd District seat by just 1,641 votes.

In that race Matheson defeated John Swallow, who was again battling Tim Bridgewater on Tuesday in the Republican primary. The 2nd District loops from Salt Lake City through eastern Utah to St. George in the state's southwest corner.

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

The 3rd District covers part of Salt Lake and Utah counties and meanders through central and western Utah.

Throckmorton, a former state representative, has made cracking down on immigration a theme of his campaign. His supporters accused Cannon aide Marco Diaz, speaking on a Spanish-language radio program, of encouraging undocumented workers to give to Cannon's campaign through straw donors.

Joe Hunter, Cannon's chief of staff, said that later on the program, Cannon clarified that non-citizens couldn't contribute to his campaign.

Nonetheless, the Justice Department announced last week it would send attorneys to monitor Tuesday's primary, although it didn't say why. But at the same time, U.S. Attorney Paul Warner put out a statement asking Utah residents to report any poll violations such as bribery, coercion or false claims of U.S. citizenship.

The Republican primary will be closed to all but registered Republicans. In a state where three out of four voters refuse to sign up with any party, that could make for a light turnout.

State elections director Amy Naccarato is predicting fewer than 20 percent of Utah voters will participate in the Republican or open Democratic primary.

One poll shows Swallow, a former state representative, and Bridgewater, a software executive, in a statistical tie for the right to take on Matheson.

The Dan Jones & Associates poll, published Sunday in the Deseret Morning News, had Swallow leading Bridgewater 29-24 percent, with another 31 percent undecided.

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

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