PHOTO: The Republican primary for the U.S. Senate is on June 22nd. Mike Lee, left, is shown after a May 20th debate with his opponent Tim Bridgewater. Dr. Laura Bridgewater, a professor of Molecular Biology at BYU, is in the center. She defended her Ph.D. dissertation just 4 days before their youngest children – twins – were born.
Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) will endorse Tim Bridgewater as his successor next Monday. Bennett came in third at the May 8th Utah Republican State Convention, and a primary between Bridgewater and attorney Mike Lee will be held on June 22nd.
At the convention, Bridgewater defeated Lee by a 57% to 43% margin, but he needed 60% of the vote to avoid a primary. Bridgewater is Chairman of Interlink Capital Strategies and has participated in over $120 million of private equity investments. He has so far loaned his campaign $391,745.
Senator Bennett would have been renominated for another term if he could have entered a primary. His problem was that the nomination was decided at the state convention. A Mason Dixon Poll conducted for the Salt Lake Tribune prior to the convention indicated Bennett was by far the most popular GOP candidate in the race.
Thirty-nine percent said they would vote for Bennett, compared to 20 percent for Lee, and 14 percent for Bridgewater. Cherilyn Eagar, a social conservative, received 16% of the vote on the first ballot at the convention and finished fourth. She has also endorsed Bridgewater.
Mike Lee, 38, is a former Supreme Court clerk for Justice Samuel Alito, and he is the son of the late U.S. Solicitor General Rex Lee. He has the support of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), Freedom Works, Red State, the libertarian Republican Liberty Caucus, former Governor Norm Bangerter, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Mark Levin and Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (R-UT), who was also a Senate candidate.
The GOP candidates are in agreement on most issues and they both claim to be “the true conservative.” The both advocate U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations, and they both want to end the automatic citizenship granted to the children of illegal immigrants under the 14th amendment.
At the most recent debate they were arguing subjects such as the 17th amendment to the U.S. Constitution which established the direct election of U.S. Senators. Bridgewater does not want to repeal the amendment.
One of the few areas of disagreement involves national security. Lee surprised many conservatives when he criticized the U.S. role in Afghanistan by saying:
I’m concerned with reports that I am hearing from Afghanistan in particular that we may have 100 or fewer active militant Taliban in Afghanistan. . . If that is true, I ask the question: what on earth are we doing subjecting our brave men and women who need to be supported to that kind of danger, day in and day out, if they have as many thugs there as we have right here in Utah county?
Senator Bennett immediately reacted to the statement by blasting Lee in a TV ad: “Mike Lee wants to cut and run in Afghanistan as soon as we can,” and he “demeans our soldiers service as nothing more than ‘Meals on Wheels.’” According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service, there are an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Taliban fighters.
Some estimates are as high as 25,000. What Lee is referring to is an interview last October with National Security Adviser James Jones where he told CNN there are fewer than 100 al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.
According to Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty, Lee “Advocates a non-interventionist foreign policy and says our military should be used for defensive purposes only. He considers the Patriot Act one of the worst pieces of legislation enacted during the Bush years. He despises the Federal Reserve.”
Tim Bridgewater does not support a withdrawal from Afghanistan and says:
When Barack Obama campaigned on a “cut and run” strategy in Iraq, I strongly opposed that position as naïve and dangerous. We are engaged in a war against international terrorists whose goals are to kill us and destroy our way of life. Giving those terrorists a stronger position in Afghanistan and Pakistan now could provide our enemies with a strong economic base and access to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.