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SALT LAKE CITY – Utah credit unions finally have some good news to cheer about this month in the race for the state’s governor after helping engineer a successful grassroots lobbying campaign to turn back the Republican candidacy of House Speaker Marty Stephens, a CU antagonist. “A very good picture was presented,” is how League Chairman Steve Christensen put it in describing the outcome of the preferential primary balloting which took place May 8 at the state’s GOP Convention attended by 3,500 delegates. Stephens, a former vice president of Zions Bank and who at one time was depicted as a hatchetman for Harrris J. Simmons, the bank’s chairman whose family has long tried to wage a national anti-CU vendetta, came in fifth in the convention voting. The two top winners – both considered to have tacitly favorable views about CU growth and who face a June 22 GOP primary runoff – are: Jon Huntsman Jr., the scion of a wealthy Salt Lake family and former U.S. ambassador to Singapore, and Nolan Karras, chairman of the State Board of Regents and a key aide in bringing the U.S. Olympics to Utah in 2002. In the voting, Huntsman won 51% while Karras got 49% with a 60% margin required to avoid a runoff. While both Huntsman and Karras spoke briefly on their views regarding CUs at private League committee meetings in April, the League’s chairman, Steve Christensen, said their “philosophies” regarding CUs would be explored in new meetings between now and the June 22 primary. Christensen, who also is president of Tooele FCU, did not elaborate on what topics might be explored, but heading the list would likely be the candidates’ attitude on the persistent banker-led campaign to impose taxes on both state and federal CUs in the 2005 session. Also on the list would be field-of-membership expansion, the pending federal district court suit here challenging NCUA FOM rulings, and the outlook for improving conditions for state-chartered CUs on business loans. Christensen said the meetings with Huntsman and Karras would be held to “hear more in depth” on the issues impacting CUs. In the meantime, Christensen said the outcome of the May 8 voting and Stephens’ defeat was clearly a plus for CUs and evidence of the ability of CUs to muster an effective campaign to buttonhole GOP delegates. Just prior to the voting, the League had sent out letters to a broad “swath” of the delegates encouraging them to vote against Stephens because of his close identification with the banker-led, anti-CU cause. It was gratifying, said Christensen, “that credit unions and their supporters weighed in” on the primary race. The Tooele CU executive reiterated the League’s view that its campaign against Stephens was “nothing personal” but that his views were inimical to the interests of the Utah public. “We have nothing derogatory to say personally about Stephens but he is not a credit union advocate,” concluded Christensen. During his term as speaker, Stephens had promoted the 2003 bill to tax CUs. Christensen said “Utah is the real winner” in the voting having made upstanding choices on both the GOP and Democratic sides in the May 8 conventions. Because Utah is a strongly GOP state, most of the political attention was focused on the GOP race but the June 22 winner will face the Democrat nominee, Scott Matheson Jr. Christensen said the League will also seek the views of Matheson on CU issues. Defeated in the convention balloting was the state’s now lame-duck GOP governor, Olene Walker, who had appeared at a League meeting pledging to help restore the dual federal/state system in Utah damaged by the bank anti-CU tax attacks. Those attacks had triggered a dozen conversions to federal charter and the loss of millions in income to the state. Walker, the former lieutenant governor, assumed the job last year following President Bush’s appointment of Gov. Michael Leavitt as head of the Environmental Protection agency. -

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