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

Republican Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox Wins Utah Governor’s Race

Polls are in and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has won the race to become Utah's next governor.
Renee Bright
Polls are in and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has won the race to become Utah's next governor.

Republican Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has won the race for Utah Governor, according to the Associated Press. As of 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday, he has 64.17% of the vote while his opponent, Democrat Chris Peterson, has garnered 31.10%.

This was the first open race for governor since 2004 and Cox has been the lieutenant governor since 2013. Before that he served in the state House of Representatives and on the Sanpete County Commission. Peterson is a law professor at the University of Utah and previously worked for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well as the U.S. Department of Defense.

About an hour after the race was called, Cox gave an emotional acceptance speech in his hometown of Fairview. He said he would be a governor for all of Utah, not just Republicans. He also called on his party to change how it approaches policy.

“It is a duty to make sure that justice and the rights promised to us in our Constitution are available to everyone: Black, brown, white, rich, poor, rural, urban,” he said. “It is our duty to make sure that they have the same opportunities that we enjoy. We must be the party of civil rights. We must be the party of the downtrodden. We've given up too many of these issues to other parties and let them define us. We cannot be a party of selfishness.”

The race was called just one minute after the polls closed. Democrats have struggled to gain traction in statewide races throughout campaign season. Peterson had been trailing Cox by 25-35 points for most of the election, and the state has not had a Democratic governor since the 1980s.

Peterson conceded around 10:30 p.m.

“I’m proud that we ran an ethical race focused on policy issues,” he said in a statement. “This campaign was about building a new beginning for the Democratic Party in Utah. My name was on the ballot, but this was never about me. It was about fighting to make a positive difference in the daily lives of working people.”

“Chris is spending time with his family and closely watching the results as they come in,” said campaign manager Quang Dang. “The election is over when every vote is counted. Not only with his race but nationally and here locally where some races are being decided by 50 votes.”

Cox and Peterson framed their race as a civil one, even releasing joint advertisements that gained international attention. In them, they pledged to honor the results of the presidential election and treat each other with respect and kindness.

Updated: November 4, 2020 at 12:31 AM MST
Updated: November 3, 2020 at 10:54 PM MST
Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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