- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 25, 2006

SALT LAKE CITY — Republicans are betting their control of the House on the issue of immigration, and no test case is being watched more closely than the party’s primary election here.

Five-term Rep. Chris Cannon says he opposes amnesty for the estimated 10 million to 12 million illegal aliens in the United States, but supports a “guest-worker” program that would allow them to stay in the country indefinitely.

Challenger John Jacob, a local developer and political novice who forced the primary by defeating Mr. Cannon at the Republican convention last month, calls such proposals “amnesty” and says Mr. Cannon should be removed from office.

“We need to stop up the borders now,” he said in a taped debate last week on the University of Utah’s public television station.

This campaign in a state where President Bush received 72 percent of the vote in his 2004 re-election bid has turned the politics upside down.

Mr. Jacob accuses Mr. Cannon of siding with Mr. Bush on the issue of immigration. Like Mr. Cannon, Mr. Bush supports a “guest-worker” program. The president also supports a Senate immigration-reform bill that would grant citizenship rights to millions of illegal aliens. Mr. Cannon denies that he supports that proposal.

Mr. Bush has taken to the airwaves to urge Utah voters to re-elect Mr. Cannon.

“Chris Cannon is an effective leader for Utah in Congress. He’s a strong Republican, a proven defender of traditional family values,” Mr. Bush says in a radio commercial that doesn’t mention immigration.

At more than $1 million, the protracted Utah primary is estimated to be the most expensive in 15 years.

House Republicans have determined that immigration will be a winning election issue.

Last week, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois announced that House Republicans would delay negotiations over the Senate bill. Instead, they will hold hearings across the country before the November elections to gauge whether voters prefer the Senate “amnesty” bill or the House bill aimed at securing the border and enforcing federal immigration laws already on the books.

Polls suggest that voters overwhelmingly prefer the House approach.

Internal nationwide polling conducted by House Republicans and obtained by The Washington Times shows that 84 percent of voters agree that “we have to stop the flow of illegals before we address what to do about those who already are here.”

The poll, conducted by McLaughlin & Associates in late April, found that 80 percent of Democrats and 91 percent of Hispanics agree with that approach.

The Senate specifically rejected a proposal that would have delayed the more contentious aspects of the bill until the homeland security secretary certifies the border as secure.

Polling for the Salt Lake Tribune found similar positions. A poll conducted last week found that 56 percent of Utahans support the construction of a wall along the border with Mexico and 54 percent oppose providing a path to citizenship for illegals.

Also, 71 percent support repealing a state law that allows the children of illegal aliens to receive in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities. Tuition reductions for illegals is included in the Senate bill and has been supported by Mr. Cannon.

Although Mr. Jacob is capitalizing on the immigration issue, his campaign has hit some rough spots in recent days.

In a radio interview, he admitted that he had once enjoyed recreational gambling, which is strictly prohibited in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormon religion dominates the state.

He also raised eyebrows when he complained last week to a Tribune reporter that the devil had dogged his business deals, preventing him from spending even more of his personal fortune on his primary campaign.

Mr. Jacob does not seem to be worried that his comments will be offensive in this strongly religious state.

“I shouldn’t have said it,” he said jokingly. “The devil made me do it.”

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