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LEHI - Incumbency overcame the anti-immigration wave in Utah's 3rd Congressional District Republican Primary.

Five-term Rep. Chris Cannon had a commanding lead over political newcomer John Jacob with 89 percent of the precincts reporting at press time.

Cannon had collected 56 percent of the vote to Jacob's 44, with one-fifth of Salt Lake County's ballots still to be counted.

But by 11:05 p.m. Jacob already had seen enough. He called Cannon to concede.

After the call, Cannon triumphantly told a crowd of supporters gathered at Provo's Historic Court House: "This is my sixth time running for office and this is the first concession call I've ever received."

Cannon was surprised by the margin of his lead. "I would have called it much closer than this," he said.

A poll published last weekend by The Salt Lake Tribune also predicted a tighter race.

A despondent Jacob said he would now back his opponent, going so far as to say he would hold a fund-raiser for him.

"The people have chosen Chris Cannon. I will support him," Jacob said. "Cannon showed he does have support in Washington, D.C. - more than we ever knew."

Jacob blamed his defeat on President Bush's endorsement of Cannon, which was used in radio advertisements and recorded phone messages.

"It is hard enough to beat the incumbent. I had to beat the president, too," Jacob said. "It took the energy out of my campaign."

But Cannon criticized Jacob for running a campaign with limited proposals.

''This guy just said, 'If you want change vote for me.' I just don't think people accept that.''

Jacob had relentlessly attacked Cannon on his illegal-immigration position, making vague promises of tough reform virtually the only issue in his campaign. The race was watched nationwide as a so-called referendum on Bush's immigration reform plan.

Late in the campaign, Jacob was hit with a series of potentially devastating revelations. His image may have been hurt by allegations that he circumvented the law to pay a Chilean immigrant couple and that the active Mormon had gambled in the past.

Jacob also complained to reporters that Satan was undermining his personal finances to derail his election.

''There's another force that wants to keep us from going to Washington, D.C.,'' Jacob said. ''It's the devil is what it is.''

News stories on these topics, along with Cannon's experience and congressional seniority apparently carried the day.

Cannon teased the 150 supporters who gathered at Provo's Historic County Court House saying he would make an announcement on immigration, which he called the ''I'' word.

Cannon said he wants to reconstitute his personal Immigration Advisory Committee and said former vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp would be a member.

He also wants input from the public on an immigration policy through a Web site offering a "wiki," which allows any user to change the content.

"America wants a conclusion to the immigration issue," Cannon said.

Reform plans became an emotional issue for many Utahns after thousands of Latinos demonstrated in Salt Lake City and nationwide earlier this spring against a U.S. House bill that would have made it a felony to enter the country illegally.

The bill died, the debate has not.

During the campaign, Cannon often appealed to voters saying, "racism and xenophobia are not Republican virtues." Effective immigration reform will require patience and reason, he said.

Apparently, voters agreed. His primary win virtually guarantees his re-election victory over Democrat Christian Burridge because the 3rd District is one of the nation's most conservative.

Despite constant debate on the issue, Cannon and Jacob's positions remained shades of semantics through the primary election day.

Cannon has long supported a pro-business approach that would allow foreign workers to enter the U.S. employment ranks. He adamantly maintained that he does not support amnesty. But his toughest stance, under pressure from anti-immigration groups, would allow workers in the country illegally to pay fines, perhaps leave the country briefly, then return as temporary guest workers.

His steadfastness to the Bush administration won him a valuable presidential endorsement in the last week of the campaign.

But Cannon's voting record and statements ascribing xenophobia and racism to his opponents won him the wrath of anti-illegal immigration groups, including the Minuteman PAC and far-right firebrand Bay Buchanan's Team America PAC. The groups bought radio and newspaper advertising denouncing his immigration votes as undermining the nation.

Buchanan promised, "If we can defeat Chris Cannon on the issue of illegal immigration, it will send shock waves in the House of Representatives."

Jacob never came up with a detailed reform plan, arguing simply, "I couldn't do worse than Chris Cannon."

Jacob's spokeswoman Hayden Hill said he was taking the defeat particularly hard.

"John is new to politics," she said. "His expectations were maybe a little too high."


Tribune reporter Todd Hollingshead contributed to this article.

Cannon, Jacob nip 'n' tuck