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Merrill Cook to challenge US Sen. Bob Bennett

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SALT LAKE CITY -- In a race that's already drawn more than half a dozen candidates, another big name is jumping in.

Former Congressman Merrill Cook announced Thursday he's seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.

It's not a surprise that Cook is running for office; after all, he's done that a dozen times.

What is a surprise is instead of running for a House seat, he's running to try to replace Bob Bennett in the U.S. Senate.

Cook is nothing if not enthusiastic about the democratic process, having run -- for something -- in nearly every election cycle in the past two-and-a-half decades.

This time the perennial candidate is running against Bob Bennett, criticizing the long-time incumbent as too cozy with banks and special interests.

2010 U.S. Senate Candidates
  • Bob Bennett (R) - incumbent
  • Merrill Cook (R)
  • Tim Bridgwater (R)
  • Cherilyn Eager (R)
  • Mike Lee (R)
  • James Williams (R)
  • Sam Granato (D)
  • Christopher Stout (D)

"As I look, I say this with respect, at how much Wall Street has gotten in and big banks have gotten in and taken over this seat, I feel that we need someone who has dealt with those circles," Cook said.

Cook's entrance shakes up a crowded field, especially for conservative Cherilyn Eagar. She went to Cook for advice just last weekend, sharing what she says was confidential, strategic information.

Eager says Cook never indicated he was thinking about joining the Senate race. Now she says he can't be trusted.

"It doesn't make any difference to our strategy, I was just disappointed in what happened," she said.

Cook says he never made any promises to Eagar or other candidates.

"I applaud them for getting in, and I would hope they would applaud me for getting in," he said. "If they don't, that's up to them."

In the meantime, the activist outsider says he was "tea party" before there was a Tea Party.

Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, said, "Merrill Cook is the ultimate wild card. He shakes everything up and it makes it far less predictable whenever he's involved."

Cook says he jumped in partly because fellow Republicans had been asking him to run for the Senate instead of the House.

Bennett is seeking a fourth term but has been criticized by some Republicans for not being conservative enough. Some contend Bennett shouldn't have voted for a bailout of the nation's financial system.

A call to the Bennett campaign for reaction Thursday was not returned.


Story compiled with contributions from John Daley and the Associated Press.

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