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Newly Formed Centrist Party Hits Hurdle In Bid For Utah's 3rd District Race

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Julia Ritchey, KUER
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Jim Bennett discusses his run for the 3rd district at the state capitol on Friday, May 26. He planned to run under a newly formed moderate party called the United Utah Party, but state elections officials could not certify their petition in time.

A newly created centrist party that attempted to enter the packed 3rd Congressional District race fell short of a deadline to get certified, but may run a candidate anyway.

 

Jim Bennett is the co-founder of the United Utah Party, an effort he decided to launch in conjunction with a run to replace Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who’ll be resigning at the end of the next month.

 

The goal, he said, was to form a more moderate faction for disaffected Republicans and Democrats tired of their respective parties’ polarization.

 

“We saw a need for the people in the middle to have a place to go when they’re not happy with what Republicans are doing,” he said. "And we saw that need prior to the special election, but we saw the special election as an opportunity to jump in and introduce ourselves to the people of Utah."

 

Bennett’s group collected the 2,000 signatures required to form their party, but were not able to get them certified by state election officials in time to allow Bennett to run under the party banner.

 

Director of elections Mark Thomas said Bennett will either have to run as an unaffiliated candidate or write-in, but Bennett’s campaign said they intend to challenge that decision.

 

If his name sounds familiar, that’s because the 49-year-old is the son of the late Republican Sen. Bob Bennett, who represented the Beehive State for almost two decades.

 

Bob Bennett was ousted in the 2010 Republican primary during the Tea Party wave that swept away more moderate Republicans.

 

Bennett said his father, who died of cancer last year, had a strong influence on his decision to run.

 

“His disaffection with the Republican party correlated with the rise of Trump, so I like to think were he still here — I wish he were still here — he would be supportive of this effort and he would recognize this is something that we need to do,” he said.

 

Friday was the final day for Utahns to declare their candidacy for the special election. A total of 22 people are running, including 15 Republicans, four Democrats, and three third-party candidates — minus Bennett.

 

The general election will be held November 7.

Candidates Running For The 3rd Congressional District

 

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Credit elections.utah.gov
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Candidates who filed with Lieutenant Governor's office by the Friday deadline.

 

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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