Republican Convention

Chaffetz readies for nomination, sets record straight

2014-04-23T17:30:00Z 2014-04-30T11:37:05Z Chaffetz readies for nomination, sets record straightBilly Hesterman Daily Herald Daily Herald
April 23, 2014 5:30 pm  • 

AMERICAN FORK -- Expectations are that Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, will walk away from Saturday's state Republican convention with the GOP nomination in hand.

That doesn't mean he is taking anything for granted. 

In a meeting Wednesday with state Republican delegates, Chaffetz touted his record, praised the caucus convention system and bashed Democrats in Washington. He could have left it at that, but he also took a few minutes to respond to the claims being made by one of his Republican opponents. 

"I just need to set the record straight. It is part of the process," Chaffetz said after meeting with the delegates. 

Chaffetz probably doesn't need to set anything straight to aid his chances of winning. He has nearly $200,000 cash on hand to aid him in any upcoming election he may face. He also is popular enough that most claims about him would be brushed off as opponents trying to gain some traction in an uphill battle. 

Despite all of that, when he was asked about some of the claims his opponent has made about him, he punched back. 

Chaffetz was first asked about his rating score put out by the conservative group FreedomWorks. Earlier this week, one of his opponents, Mark Hedengren, issued an email that stated Chaffetz had only a 33 percent score from the group for his voting record in 2014. 

Chaffetz said his score was lower this year from the group because he missed a series of votes the organization used to create its score. He further explained the reason he missed the votes was he was back at his Alpine home welcoming home his son from a mission served for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

"I was being a dad," he said. 

Chaffetz said he expects FreedomWorks to issue a letter before Saturday's convention giving him a higher score than 33 percent -- more than likely somewhere in the high 80s. 

The three-term congressman also took issue with another claim by Hedengren that the current representative won't engage in a debate. Hedengren has issued a series of emails to delegates about his attempt to debate Chaffetz and said Chaffetz had refused the offer. 

Chaffetz said Hedengren only wanted a debate between the two of them and did not want to include the third GOP challenger, Robert Stevens. Chaffetz said that didn't sound like a full debate to him and said his campaign turned down the offer because, in his view, it wasn't a real offer to debate. 

Hedengren's attempts to ruffle Chaffetz's feathers appear to be working to some extent, as Chaffetz even went on to show the room of about 40 delegates screenshots of Hedengren's personal website. According to Chaffetz's screenshots, Hedengren has an essay written by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, included in a book Hedengren published. 

Chaffetz said Hedengren had posted on his website a line of gratitude for Reid writing an essay for his book but has since removed the line. Chaffetz appeared to be pointing out to the delegates that Hedengren may somehow support Reid because of this relationship. 

Hedengren said he was surprised Chaffetz was responding in such a way to the claims he was making. He said he has an $80 campaign budget and was astonished he was having an impact on the odds-on favorite to win the nomination. 

"I'm surprised that he is this worried," Hedengren said. 

Hedengren said Chaffetz's characterization of the debate negotiations was misleading. He said he was open to including all of the candidates but said Chaffetz's campaign team informed him the congressman was going to do the job he was elected to do and continue with his previously scheduled events. 

Chaffetz was in Washington two weeks ago for votes, and in Japan last week attending to his congressional duties. 

Hedengren was also surprised Chaffetz went after the Reid essay in his book. The book, a photo-heavy work that looks at three southern Utah towns, is non-political, and Hedengren said he was happy to have Reid write an essay for it as Reid grew up in the area on which the book is focused. 

Hedengren said he knows his chances going into this weekend's convention, but that doesn't mean he won't stop pushing Chaffetz on these issues until the delegates take their vote. 

Chaffetz said he is proud of his record and that he was simply looking to set the record straight with the delegates prior to Saturday. 

Daily Herald reporter Billy Hesterman can be reached at bhesterman@heraldextra.com or (801) 344-2559 or on Twitter @billyhesterman.

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