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Republican primary: Wittman versus Crabill

Election night 2009, for many, was a foregone conclusion.  There was little doubt that there was a Republican sweep in the works.  And that’s exactly what happened.  But that didn’t mean the evening didn’t have some surprises.  One of the most startling results was right here in the 99th district.  I figured that Al Pollard, a delegate I hold in high esteem, was on his way, if not to a landslide, at least to a decisive win.  
But that’s not what happened.  His opponent, who I dismissed as something of a fringe candidate, someone all but abandoned by her party, almost beat Pollard.  For several hours during the evening, it even looked like she might win.  Pollard, fortunately, remains in the House of Delegates, but Catherine Crabill, thanks to her strong showing in 2009, is now a force to be reckoned with and she can’t be so easily dismissed.

Crabill isn’t your normal Republican candidate.  Yes, she’s conservative, but her views, in several areas drift off into the bizarre.  Perhaps these have gotten more attention than they deserve, but they are a cause for serious concern.  In one reference she offered the perspective that maybe the Federal Government itself was behind the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Center in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people.  I hope that’s not what she meant, I really do, but she has never to my knowledge recanted her statement.  Further, she was also a member of a militia-like group in New Mexico.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I find this extremely disturbing.  But none of that, to my continuing dismay, stopped her from almost winning a seat in the House of Delegates.
Crabill, following her strong showing in 2009, and no doubt encouraged by some in the Tea Party movement, has decided to run against Congressman Rob Wittman in the Republican primary.  The case for her candidacy is hard to figure.  Wittman, who has been in the House of Representatives since 2007, has a strong conservative voting record.  Indeed, he is one the most conservative members of the Congress.  Where exactly Ms. Crabill and her fringe followers have any ground to attack Wittman remains a little foggy.  Wittman is not a tea partier himself, it’s not his style, but there isn’t much in his voting record, or in his public comments, that the conservative base should have anything to complain about.
However, the tea partiers, often a collection of not always rational opponents of everything government, don’t seem to need a reason to oppose someone in office.  Usually, being in office is grounds enough.  Unfortunately, this is a highly irrational approach to politics and one that’s already damaged the party in a number of prominent races.  A good example is Senator Bob Bennett.  He is one of the U.S. Senate’s most conservative members, but he lost his nomination to a tea party sponsored opponent.  While I don’t necessarily agree with Bennett’s views, I can say that Utah, and the nation, lost a good Senator.
Ms. Crabill’s strategy, at least from my observation, doesn’t turn on running an aggressive or expensive campaign.  That’s something she will leave to her opponent.  Rather, I think she is planning to run something of a stealth campaign.  She will rely on the extreme right wing of the GOP base to get the word out to like-minded supporters.  This is a surprisingly large and effective network.  These Republicans, or so she and supporters hope, will be more motivated than Congressman Wittman’s supporters to vote in what will likely be a low turn out primary.  This “below the radar strategy” has worked before.   
That’s why I am going to give my Republican friends a bit of advice.  Yes, I know, I am, as a rule, a Democrat. And by the way, I am proud of that. However, I like to see both parties, Republicans and Democrats, field responsible and thoughtful candidates.  Rob Wittman, easily falls into that category.  His opponent in the GOP Primary, Ms. Crabill, does not.  It’s as simple as that.
You may reach David Kerr
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