Lee edges out Bridgewater for GOP Senate nomination in Utah

posted at 8:48 am on June 23, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Score another win for the Tea Party.  Mike Lee had to fight through a Utah state convention, a sitting Republican incumbent, and the incumbent’s endorsement of his primary opponent to win the nomination to the US Senate.  He will almost certainly sail to victory in the general election after edging Tim Bridgewater last night:

After weeks of bitter sparring, attorney Mike Lee won a hard-fought victory over businessman Tim Bridgewater, clinching the Republican nomination and likely a spot as Utah’s next U.S. Senator. Lee led Bridgewater 51 percent to 49 percent with 97 percent of the precincts reporting. “We had an army of hard-fighting, hard-campaigning volunteers and they just refused to quit because they believed in our message,” Lee said late Tuesday. …

At 11 p.m., Bridgewater called Lee to concede the race. “We were hopeful we were going to win tonight but it looks like were not going to pull it out,” said Bridgewater, who ran for Congress in 2002 and 2004 and lost in the Republican primary both times. “I feel like our team worked hard. We ran an honorable campaign and I can hold my head high. We fought passionately for this county.”

Lee, speaking to a crowd chanting, “We like Mike,” called his victory a “peaceful revolution” “It is different than any election year any of us have ever seen in our lifetime,” he said. “It is different because people are taking the power back.”

The Salt Lake Tribune notes the two dynamics that came into play in the primary:

The primary victory marks a crusade for Lee that started a year ago, as the conservative attorney and constitutional scholar launched a speaking tour around the state, speaking on the original intent of the U.S. Constitution. He formally joined the race in January, one of a handful of candidates seeking to capitalize on vocal and passionate conservative opposition to Sen. Bob Bennett. Fueled by a healthy dose of Tea Party anger, Republican delegates bounced Bennett at the Utah Republican Convention in May. It was the first time since 1940 that an incumbent senator from Utah has failed to get his party’s nomination.

Bridgewater emerged victorious from the state convention, receiving 57 percent of the support of delegates to Lee’s 42 percent. Lee benefited from the backing of several out-of-state groups, most notably South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund, which pumped nearly $200,000 into Lee’s election bid. Bridgewater got the backing of most of the other Republican Senate contenders, including endorsements from Bennett and conservative activist Cherilyn Eagar.

The race was close, as the Tea Party grassroots mainly wanted to push Bennett into retirement and probably saw either Lee or Bridgewater as an improvement.  It’s worth noting that Bridgewater won the ballot at the convention, where the composition of attendees swings much more towards the activists than do primary voters.  Lee came into the primary at a disadvantage, and given that Bennett himself was more popular among the general Republican electorate than he was at the convention — some surveys suggest that Bennett would have kept his seat in a primary-only system — Bridgewater seemed to have the momentum.

So what happened?  Utah Republicans apparently want a significant change.  The alignment of the establishment behind Bridgewater appears to have backfired.  The closer identification of Lee to Senator DeMint and his Senate Conservatives Fund may also have helped distinguish Lee as more of an outsider.  Certainly, Bridgewater’s multiple attempts to get the seat didn’t give Bridgewater the aura of an outsider in this race.

The lesson of 2010 will probably be that establishment candidates will lose in close races, especially in primaries, and even more so when the outsider has made himself into a serious candidate as Lee did.  Michael Steele wasted no time in welcoming Lee to the general election fight, and the Utah GOP should coalesce around their new nominee despite the tough fight, but make no mistake: it’s the grassroots that Lee represents in 2010, and that’s a good place to be.


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Comments

Score another win for the Tea Party.

Those racist militias are having quite an impact on these primaries.

Doughboy on June 23, 2010 at 8:53 AM

Yesterday was a very good day for Conservative Americans. I can only pray for many more of these days ahead.

Keemo on June 23, 2010 at 8:53 AM

The Establishment got kicked by the grassroots. Nice.

antisocial on June 23, 2010 at 8:55 AM

Nice way to start the day.Some good news for a change.

sandee on June 23, 2010 at 8:55 AM

A constitutional scholar, can’t get much better than that, congratulations Mr. Lee.

fourdeucer on June 23, 2010 at 8:57 AM

The fringe got their wish in Utah.

Falz on June 23, 2010 at 8:57 AM

Those racist militias are having quite an impact on these primaries.

Doughboy on June 23, 2010 at 8:53 AM

Great comment! I remember a day back several months ago when I brought up militia groups here in Montana and how much they help our society here in rural areas where it can take hours to get response from state or local agencies. I think I was close to being banned for using the word militia based upon the reaction at that time. A much better understanding of militia groups has been revealed over the past few months.

Keemo on June 23, 2010 at 8:58 AM

Gonna be a lot of incumbents making very fast U turns. Hope their voters are paying attention.

Kissmygrits on June 23, 2010 at 9:00 AM

I am hoping for some of that change down here in the Valley of the Sun….

hawkman on June 23, 2010 at 9:01 AM

Yeah Tea Party!!!!!!!!

These are Mormons folks……Dingy Harry is facing the same thing in Nevada with his usually reliable Mormon vote. They are abandoning his traitorous @ss!!!

csdeven on June 23, 2010 at 9:05 AM

We need to start searching for a challenger to Grahamnesty.

Now.

Start the groundwork, now.

artist on June 23, 2010 at 9:06 AM

Chrissy will spittle on about those crazy gun toting racists in utah….watch

cmsinaz on June 23, 2010 at 9:08 AM

I think I was close to being banned for using the word militia …….

Keemo on June 23, 2010 at 8:58 AM

Another evil word that’s in that bothersome document know as the Constitution.

Stupid piece of paper, am I right here lefties ???

Jerome Horwitz on June 23, 2010 at 9:09 AM

Hawkman: ditto

cmsinaz on June 23, 2010 at 9:09 AM

Hmmmm. A lawyer over a businessman. In our current climate, I might have preferred the businessman.

funky chicken on June 23, 2010 at 9:12 AM

CHANGE. People who think they have power and want to keep that power will scream that you don’t have any power until you simply take the power away. It’s a matter of ‘if the People can take back the power,’ it’s a matter of ‘will.’

j_galt on June 23, 2010 at 9:14 AM

Original NRSC-backed candidates in PA (Specter), Florida (Crist) and Utah (Bennett) don’t seem to have done well….

Fiorina did win in California.

Colorado should be interesting. Norton (NRSC) v. Buck.

Wethal on June 23, 2010 at 9:15 AM

Oops. Forgot Nevada.

John Cornyn sure can pick ‘em.

Wethal on June 23, 2010 at 9:16 AM

Fiorina was endorsed by Sarah Palin.

sandee on June 23, 2010 at 9:18 AM

As best I can get, Bridgewater spent most of his time trying to defame Mike Lee and attacking Jim DeMint.

Looks like there were two races yesterday where the establishment dirty tricks were rejected by the voters. I hope this is the beginning of a new era of Republican/Conservative politics.

Go Haley! Go Lee! And congrats to NC 13 GOP Congressional District winner and Hot Air commenter, Southern Gent!!!

Greyledge Gal on June 23, 2010 at 9:18 AM

Those racist militias are having quite an impact on these primaries.

Racist being the throwaway line for anyone not a leftist commie.

JIMV on June 23, 2010 at 9:28 AM

The fringe got their wish in Utah.

Falz on June 23, 2010 at 8:57 AM

We live on the only place on the planet where the clear majority is called the fringe BY …the fringe.

JIMV on June 23, 2010 at 9:31 AM

Go Haley! Go Lee! And congrats to NC 13 GOP Congressional District winner and Hot Air commenter, Southern Gent!!!

Greyledge Gal on June 23, 2010 at 9:18 AM

Ditto’s…

Keemo on June 23, 2010 at 9:31 AM

And congrats to NC 13 GOP Congressional District winner and Hot Air commenter, Southern Gent!!!

Wow!

gmbdds on June 23, 2010 at 9:32 AM

Fiorina was endorsed by Sarah Palin.

sandee on June 23, 2010 at 9:18 AM

The endorsements of NRSC/Cornyn and Palin were not automatically mutually exclusive. It just began to be a pattern, though.

Wethal on June 23, 2010 at 9:36 AM

I’d like to point out that Lee was also endorsed by the Republican Liberty Caucus and Ron Paul. Not to mention that Glenn Beck and Mark Levin appeared to support him.

I think Lee’s success is a reminder that there are conservative-constitutional candidates and platforms that can unite the tea party factions.

Firefly_76 on June 23, 2010 at 9:40 AM

Can Lee, the Constitutional Scholar, debate the Constitutional Professor in the White House? Pretty please?

beatcanvas on June 23, 2010 at 9:51 AM

And congrats to NC 13 GOP Congressional District winner and Hot Air commenter, Southern Gent!!!
Wow!

gmbdds on June 23, 2010 at 9:32 AM

For Real? AWESOME! CONGRATS!

dhunter on June 23, 2010 at 9:51 AM

And congrats to NC 13 GOP Congressional District winner and Hot Air commenter, Southern Gent!!!
Wow!

gmbdds on June 23, 2010 at 9:32 AM
For Real? AWESOME! CONGRATS!

dhunter on June 23, 2010 at 9:51 AM

Absolutely. Congratulations, SouthernGent. That’s fantastic!

Firefly_76 on June 23, 2010 at 9:56 AM

I’d like to point out that Lee was also endorsed by the Republican Liberty Caucus and Ron Paul. Not to mention that Glenn Beck and Mark Levin appeared to support him.

I think Lee’s success is a reminder that there are conservative-constitutional candidates and platforms that can unite the tea party factions.

Firefly_76 on June 23, 2010 at 9:40 AM

Yes. I heard Mike Lee appear on Mark Levin’s program a couple of weeks ago for a 15 minute interview.

He sounded great, focused on the right things, and Levin was praising him for his Constitutional scholar background.

Then I caught a debate on CSPAN between Bridgewater and Lee, and Lee was far more in tune with the current mood of the country. He calmly kept the focus on the Founding Documents and the insane spending in DC, as well as some more local issues.

Mike Lee will be a great addition to the US Senate.

Victory!

Brian1972 on June 23, 2010 at 10:03 AM

Seriously, Allah: Haley AND Lee victories in one night, and there’s no Humpbot? For shame! ;)

Animator Girl on June 23, 2010 at 10:08 AM

We need to start searching for a challenger to Grahamnesty.
Now.
Start the groundwork, now.

artist on June 23, 2010 at 9:06 AM

I REALLY hope Sen. DeMint finds someone awesome in his home state to take out Graham.

KeepOhioRed on June 23, 2010 at 10:13 AM

As I scan through the comments, I can tell that some of you don’t get it. For example:
“Hmmmm. A lawyer over a businessman. In our current climate, I might have preferred the businessman.”
This businessman made his money getting venture capital for businesses from government agencies (your tax dollars). He had humble roots, but went into business as a partner with Neil Bush (with Daddy Bush’s help.)
It was hard to do, but the truth was spread. Had the word of Bridgewater’s true nature gotten out to everyone, the spread would have been far larger. There were many votes for a “businessman with humble roots” by people who didn’t know what his business was.
People in UT prefer someone who defends the Constitution rather than making their money from the unconstitutional use of their (and your) taxpayer dollars.
The Tea Party may have helped but there are many in UT who resent the use of that term being applied to them. The battle against Bennett and “establishment” Republicans began before we ever heard of a Tea Party. I am not Tea Party and neither are many of my friends. We fought hard for this election. Using the term Tea Party is a way to stereotype and then dismiss those who are fighting for the principles of this country.

Farmer Brown on June 23, 2010 at 10:14 AM

Gonna be a lot of incumbents making very fast U turns. Hope their voters are paying attention.

Kissmygrits on June 23, 2010 at 9:00 AM

Or fast Utah turns?

The race was close, as the Tea Party grassroots mainly wanted to push Bennett into retirement and probably saw either Lee or Bridgewater as an improvement. It’s worth noting that Bridgewater won the ballot at the convention, where the composition of attendees swings much more towards the activists than do primary voters. Lee came into the primary at a disadvantage, and given that Bennett himself was more popular among the general Republican electorate than he was at the convention — some surveys suggest that Bennett would have kept his seat in a primary-only system — Bridgewater seemed to have the momentum.

I sometimes wonder about these state “nominating conventions” and whether they choose candidates less popular in the general election than those nominated by a primary-only system by a much larger number of voters. A 51-49 margin in a primary seems very divisive, after a CONVENTION threw out an incumbent Senator. Congratulations to Mike Lee, but here’s hoping all Republicans and conservatives, including Bennett and Bridgewater, can unite behind him for November.

The system that seems to choose solid, electable candidates is a primary only, followed by a runoff primary between the two highest vote-getters if no one gets a majority in the first round. We see this with Nikki Haley, who already has 65% of Republican voters behind her in the runoff primary.

Haley’s margin is very impressive, considering that she received more votes in her SC Republican primary than both candidates in the NC Democratic Senate primary, even though North Carolina is a more populous state.

Steve Z on June 23, 2010 at 10:19 AM

The Republican leadership is scared to death about the rise of the new Conservative movement inside the party.People like McCain,Graham and other Rino’s see the hand writing on the wall and will try to fool the people again.It won’t work this time just ask Bob Ingles of S.C.The good o boys days are number just ask Strom Thurman son who was blown out last night by a conservative black man (the real deal) in of all places S.C. a new day is here. The big Rino hunt is on.

thmcbb on June 23, 2010 at 10:21 AM

Bennett was a businessman and we saw what he did for three terms. Bridgewater had previously run for a congressional seat (the 2nd district seat currently held by Matheson) twice and lost twice in the republican primary. The fact that he has tried to get elected twice before but lost gave me the impression that he really wants to be a politician and get some power. He went negative fairly quickly and Lee only ever defended himself. I’m glad with the results and I think that Lee will do a good job – he’d better because we will be watching!

aggie13 on June 23, 2010 at 10:25 AM

And congrats to NC 13 GOP Congressional District winner and Hot Air commenter, Southern Gent!!!

Way to Go – Congratulations SouthernGent!!!

huskerdiva on June 23, 2010 at 10:31 AM

Oh man, another lawyer.

True_King on June 23, 2010 at 10:34 AM

Mitt Romney cries today.

portlandon on June 23, 2010 at 10:42 AM

The “GOP Establishment” will back anyone GOP. The “Tea Party Participants” will only back conservatives.

The Republican Party employees need to think about that.

barnone on June 23, 2010 at 11:02 AM

great news. a great night for grassroots last night with Lee, Haley, and Scott winning among others.

unseen on June 23, 2010 at 11:18 AM

Bridgewater’s “buisness” consisted of soliciting and distributing gubmint largess. That doesn’t make him palatable to the small-gubmint crowd.

What decided it for me were the two Glenn Beck interviews of Lee and Bridgewater. Lee made cogent, passionate arguments for Consititutional originalism, whereas Bridgewater sounded like he’d downed a barrel of snake-oil before the interview.

It also doesn’t hurt that Lee’s father was a noted Consititutional lawyer (as is the son) who argued 59 cases before SCOTUS and that he conducted dinner-table discussions about the Constitution’s original intent while Mike was growing up.

Sons don’t always live up to their father’s reputations, but it sounds like Mike is doing pretty well so far, unlike Huntsman Jr. and Matheson Jr.

dicentra63 on June 23, 2010 at 12:37 PM

Original NRSC-backed candidates in PA (Specter), Florida (Crist) and Utah (Bennett) don’t seem to have done well….

Fiorina did win in California.

Colorado should be interesting. Norton (NRSC) v. Buck.

Wethal on June 23, 2010 at 9:15 AM

Norton is history. Buck has aligned himself very closely with the Tea Party, and went from a 30% deficit to a 30% lead.

The Tea Party/Anti-Establishment mood here is amazing.

Norwegian on June 23, 2010 at 1:21 PM

The Establishment got kicked by the grassroots. Nice.

antisocial on June 23, 2010 at 8:55 AM

This is a good day! A very good day.

A constitutional scholar, can’t get much better than that, congratulations Mr. Lee.

fourdeucer on June 23, 2010 at 8:57 AM

Once he wins in November, he’ll no longer be called to be a constitutional scholar. We’ll need him as a constitutional defender, and I think he’d do a much better job than the current establishment.

And congrats to NC 13 GOP Congressional District winner and Hot Air commenter, Southern Gent!!!

That deserves it’s own post methinks. Well done!

Chaz706 on June 23, 2010 at 3:31 PM

Thank you Jim Demint, the man who should have John Cornyn’s job.

Raisedbywolves on June 23, 2010 at 4:05 PM

The Tea Party must keep the RINO hunt going. They cannot stop until conservatives take back the Congress. November is a turning pont in our nation’s history.

volsense on June 23, 2010 at 4:12 PM

…It also doesn’t hurt that Lee’s father was a noted Consititutional lawyer (as is the son) who argued 59 cases before SCOTUS and that he conducted dinner-table discussions about the Constitution’s original intent while Mike was growing up…

dicentra63 on June 23, 2010 at 12:37 PM

I see a trend.

In NV in 2003, Angle took her whole damn state government all the way to SCOTUS – when she was a state Assemblywoman. She hired constitutional expert John Eastman, a good buddy of — Mark Levin.

Eastman used Article IV, Section 4, ‘Republican form of government’ in his filing – i.e., each state must have and OBEY it’s own constitution!!!

It’s all just a plot from Levin’s bunker.

I would love to see a debate between Levin and Obama on the constitution!!!

fred5678 on June 23, 2010 at 4:36 PM

I hope Lee turns out to be as conservative as he professes. But when he spoke at our local tea party, before announcing his candidacy, I was underwhelmed.

TDBURN on June 23, 2010 at 9:36 PM

I voted for Lee.

I am thankful to conservative Senator Jim Demint, a big Mitt Romney supporter, for helping Lee win.

Lee will represent Utah honorably in the Senate.

scotash on June 23, 2010 at 9:51 PM