Mark Shurtleff (R)
Bob Bennett (R)
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Legal Newsline)-Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff last weekend handily won the first straw poll of the Beehive State's U.S. Senate campaign.
Shurtleff is seeking in 2010 to oust fellow Republican Bob Bennett, Utah's three-term junior U.S. senator.
At the Utah County Republican Party BBQ Saturday evening, Shurtleff won the straw poll with 42 percent support. In second was Cherilyn Eagar, with 32 percent support, and trailing in third was Bennett, with 26 percent of the vote.
"We're delighted and encouraged," said Jason Powers, Shurtleff spokesperson. "It's very early and we have a lot of work ahead, but clearly, those active party members, those who have been and will be delegates are sending a message that they want a Senator who is willing to stand up and change things. Washington will not be fixed by re-electing those who have created the problem."
The event was attended by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert. Shurtleff, Bennett and Eagar also attended and fielded questions, the Shurtleff campaign said.
Shurtleff will face the others formally in the Republican nominating convention next spring. Utah County is home to about a quarter of the convention delegates, a Shurtleff spokeswoman said.
Among other things, Shurtleff has said Bennett should not be the Republican senatorial nominee because of the key role he played in drafting the federal bailout of the nation's financial industry earlier this year.
Shutleff said in a June interview with Legal Newsline that the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief program, or TARP, runs counter to the fiscal conservatism that most Utahans expect from their elected officials.
"I appreciate his service, and I have supported him in the past," Shurtleff said of Bennett. "But he is part of the inside Washington tax-and-spend policies."
Bennett is the ranking Republican member on the powerful Senate Rules Committee and serves as counsel to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Shurtleff handily won a third term as attorney general in November, taking nearly 70 percent of the vote. He was elected to a second term in 2004 with 68 percent of the vote. Bennett, in 2004, won 69 percent of the vote in the heavily Republican state.
From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at firstname.lastname@example.org.