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Election news from across Utah's statewide and national races in 2020.

Most Races Too Close To Call In Utah's 2020 Primary

Photo of USPS mail box with an election sign telling voters not to drop ballots here.
Elaine Clark
Utah's primary election on June 30 was held almost entirely by mail, impacting when results will be available — so far three out of the four state-wide races are undecided. Burgess Owens has won the GOP nomination for Utah's 4th Congressional District.";

Utahns voted in a very influential primary election Tuesday. There's the open governor's seat, a congressional swing district ... Most races, though, are still up in the air this morning. KUER’s politics team Sonja Hutson and Emily Means joined Diane Maggipinto to break down what happened.

Diane Maggipinto: The one race that has been called is the Republican primary for the 4th congressional district. Former NFL player Burgess Owens will face the state's only Democratic congressman, Ben McAdams. Sonja, how did the campaign debate over choosing a moderate versus a conservative play out in last night's results?

Sonja Hutson Because Donald Trump won this district in 2016 by seven points, but two years later, it elected a Democrat — the debate is, do you try to stay moderate to keep those Democratic voters happy? Or do you lean conservative with the belief that this is really a solidly Republican district? And GOP voters chose a pretty conservative candidate in Burgess Owens. He spends a lot of time talking about what he sees as the evils of the Democratic Party and socialism. He has a really strong pro-life stance, among other things. But he also supports making legal immigration easier as well as criminal justice reform. Another thing to note is that he got a lot of name recognition from being a regular commentator on Fox News in addition to his time in the NFL.

DM: So that's the one clear result, Sonja, let's move on to the Republican primary for governor. We knew it would be close. It's been a close race in the polls for months now and still close. What are results looking like so far?

SH: Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has a slight lead over former Governor Jon Huntsman. He's about 3% ahead of him. Former Utah Speaker of the House Greg Hughes is in third place at about 14% behind Huntsman. Geographically, Hughes is doing well down in Southern Utah, which is where his running mate Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson is from. Huntsman is doing well in the more liberal counties like Salt Lake and Summit, and Cox won counties in large swaths of the rest of the state.

DM: Emily Means, let's look at another statewide office, attorney general. Republican incumbent Shawn Reyes is tens of thousands of votes ahead of his challenger, David Leavitt. What has that race look like?

Emily Means: So this one has been somewhat contentious. Leavitt is the Utah county attorney and his main issue is criminal justice reform. This is an issue he says Reyes hasn't done enough on during his time in office.

Reyes has been in office since 2013, and he says Leavitt is taking an idealistic approach that would be very expensive. But Reyes says he has worked on criminal justice reform. It's just not the only thing an A.G. has to do. He also talks about his work on opioids and suicide prevention. So, it's been a bit of a contentious race.

DM: Okay, Emily, let's move over to Utah's 1st Congressional District — the state's only open federal seat with Republican Rep. Rob Bishop stepping down, of course, after his term ends. How did the four Republicans differentiate themselves in the primary?

EM: It's kind of been difficult for them to do this. All of the candidates adhere to typical conservative values. But many of their policy proposals are similar to Congressman Bishop's — things like more local control for public lands and supporting Hill Air Force Base. So this race is very close, though, and Blake Moore has less than 600 votes ahead of Bob Stevenson. We likely won't know the final results of this race for a little bit.

DM: Let's stay in the 1st District because that is the state's only congressional Democratic primary that was held, and those two candidates were easier to tell apart.

EM: Yeah, this one is definitely more clear cut. Jamie Cheek is the clear progressive in this race, and she supports policies like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. Darren Parry is the moderate in this race. He says that he works well with Republicans. That has really played into their strategy in this district with Cheek arguing that a moderate Democrat can't win this district, because they haven't for 40 years. But right now, Parry is ahead of cheek by less than 900 votes. In the end, though, it's questionable whether that really matters because the district is strongly Republican, and it's likely that whoever wins the Republican primary will win this seat in November.

DM: Sonja Hutson, any sense when we may have final results?

SH: In just a few words? We don't really know. It depends on how close the races are, and it also depends on how many people voted Tuesday. There is this 24-hour waiting period that county clerks have. So they will not start processing ballots until 24 hours after they received them, just to make sure there's no coronavirus/COVID-19 contamination on the envelopes. So, we don't actually even know the turnout numbers yet or how many ballots are left to count.

Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow Sonja on Twitter @SonjaHutson

Emily Means covers politics for KUER. Follow Emily on Twitter @Em_Means13

Diane Maggipinto is the Morning Edition host for KUER. Follow Diane on Twitter @MorningsOnKUER

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