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Bennett Leaves Open Possibility of Write-In Candidacy

Sen. Bob Bennett on Tuesday declined to rule out seeking re-election as a write-in candidate, indicating he would let the dust settle from his defeat over the weekend at his state’s Republican primary nominating convention.

The Utah Republican finished third in the voting of 3,500 Utah GOP delegates, thus failing to qualify for the June 22 primary ballot. Although the National Republican Senatorial Committee has already pledged to support the winner of that contest, Bennett suggested that the Senate GOP leadership supports his decision to consider running in the Nov. 2 general election as a write-in.

“I have made a decision not to make any decisions, or any announcements, for a while. So, we will let this thing settle,” Bennett told reporters, after exiting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office at the conclusion of Tuesday’s regularly scheduled leadership team meeting. “When I tell [my Republican colleagues] that I have decided not to make any decisions, they all say that’s really a smart thing to do.”

Bennett is a close adviser to McConnell.

Under Utah’s peculiar nominating rules, a candidate must win the requisite support of delegates at the nominating convention in order to qualify for the statewide primary election. There is no method allowing candidates to petition onto the primary ballot, which exists in other states with nominating conventions, leaving a general election write-in candidacy as Bennett’s only option.

Bennett on Saturday failed to advance to the statewide GOP primary after securing less than 40 percent of the delegate vote and finishing third to businessman Tim Bridgewater, who has previously run for the House, and attorney Mike Lee, whose father once served as president of Brigham Young University.

Bennett said he was punished because of the extreme anger at Washington that exists among his state’s electorate. “They’re angry; they’re angry at Washington, and I’m in Washington,” the third-term Republican said, adding about his predicament: “It’s a little like going to your own funeral while you’re still alive.”

At least some of the grass-roots anger that led to Bennett’s predicament is attributed to government spending and earmarks. But Bennett was defiant, saying he would spend the remainder of the year focusing on policies important to him and his state, including pursing earmarks.

“I’ll do my duty as an appropriator, and I’ll still be in favor of earmarks,” he said.

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