This week, two primary challengers, one potential one actual, ended any talk of their candidacies. In Utah, state Rep. Steve Urquhart abandoned his short-lived bid to take out Sen. Orrin Hatch, a frequent thorn in the side of conservatives. Urquhart planned to run a different type of campaign, focusing on volunteer efforts to get his message across. Unfortunately, though, political reality set in as he failed to meet the low expectations he set for his fundraising. The need for cash is simply a reality, and Urquhart simply did not have a realistic plan for raising what he would have needed for this uphill battle. Urquhart’s departure ensures Hatch’s reelection.
In New Jersey, state Assemblyman Joe Pennacchio has opted against a primary challenge to Tom Kean, Jr. Pennacchio had entertained a bid, but had not formally pursued one. Unlike Urquhart’s departure, this does not let the frontrunner off the hook. State Assemblyman Michael Doherty and Bill Spadea are both considering bids. This would be just the latest in a series of contentious and divisive GOP primaries in New Jersey.
Unlike previous primaries, it appears as though the conservative wing of the Party would be united behind one of the two, meaning that there would be a heads-up match-up between a conservative and a liberal. Such a match-up would bode well for the Party in the state. It would be an opportunity for primary voters and rank-and-file activists to recapture the GOP from the unprincipled, corrupt establishment. This year, over sixty percent of primary voters voted for someone more conservative than Doug Forrester. This week, many of those voters stayed home, and over the past several months, many of the activists focused on other, more local races. A conservative candidacy would motivate the base. Even if the candidacy itself failed, which I do not grant it would, it would reinvigorate a dead Party and pave the way for progress in the future.
In the short-term the Republican establishment will be relieved by the departures. There is no question that the Urquhart defeat is a victory for the status quo. Pennacchio’s decision, though, could end up working out well if it clears the way for another principled conservative to capture and build the GOP in a state where the entire party establishment could be considered RINO.