- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2006

PROVO, Utah — The political future of Rep. Chris Cannon, the five-term conservative Republican accused of being soft on immigration, remained unknown late last night as his primary race was too close to call.

Mr. Cannon has been locked in a furious campaign with land developer John Jacob since Mr. Jacob narrowly beat him at the Republican convention on accusations that the incumbent supports granting amnesty to illegal aliens. The primary yesterday was required because neither man won 60 percent at the vote at the May convention.

The race has garnered national attention because advocates on both sides of the immigration issue want to see how it plays out politically.

Even before the polls closed yesterday, supporters of tougher immigration reform were prepared to declare victory.

Rep. Tom Tancredo, the Colorado Republican who has led the charge for reforming U.S. immigration policies, said that if the race here is close, it will be an “earthquake” for members of Congress who, he says, still don’t understand how powerful the issue is with voters.

“This is another example that voters have really had it,” he said yesterday.

Generally speaking, Mr. Cannon has had strong support from fellow House Republicans and President Bush, who recorded a radio commercial for him.

Majority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio insisted yesterday that House Republicans have the best approach for immigration reform, regardless of the outcome of Mr. Cannon’s race.

Asked whether the outcome would deliver a national message, Mr. Boehner said, “I don’t believe so. These are local races.”

The latest polling by the Salt Lake City Tribune had Mr. Jacob, a political neophyte, within striking distance of Mr. Cannon.

A survey last week by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research found that 44 percent of “likely” Republican primary voters prefer Mr. Cannon, compared with 41 percent who prefer Mr. Jacob, who promises to crack down on illegal immigration. The three-point gap is within the poll’s five-percentage-point margin of error.

Of those who said they are “definite” about voting in the primary, Mr. Jacob netted 45 percent and Mr. Cannon netted 44 percent.

Among both groups, the 15 percent of “undecideds” will determine the outcome of the race. The district is heavily Republican — voting 77 percent for Mr. Bush and 63 percent for Mr. Cannon in 2004 — and whoever wins the Republican primary is expected to coast to victory in November.

Still, beating an incumbent is an uphill battle, especially in a race against one as ensconced as Mr. Cannon, who has a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union and was endorsed this week by the Salt Lake Tribune.

His brother Joe is on the board of directors for Salt Lake City’s other paper, the Deseret Morning News, and is chairman of the Utah Republican Party.

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