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Provo Mayor Jumps Into Crowded Race To Replace Chaffetz

Julia Ritchey, KUER
Provo Mayor John Curtis announces his bid for U.S. Congress to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who plans to resign his seat June 30. Curtis joins a dozen other candidates, including nine Republicans.

Provo Mayor John Curtis stood inside a packed reception hall in the city’s downtown Thursday evening and made his candidacy official, joining a crowded field of more than a dozen candidates running to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz. 

“I’m pleased to announce that I intend to be a candidate for Congress in the 3rd District,” he told a cheering crowd at The Bell Room in Provo.  

Candidates who have declared so far in Utah's 3rd District.

Curtis is among nine other Republicans — and counting — who’ve declared their intention to try and become the next Congressman from Utah’s conservative-leaning 3rd Congressional District. Three Democrats have also filed.

The popular two-term mayor said he made the decision to run about a week ago at the encouragement of friends and constituents. 

The campaign launch brought out many young professionals, like 26-year-old Elias Flores, who credits Curtis with revitalizing downtown Provo and making it a hub for food, music and tech.  

“I moved to Provo in 2009, which was known as a dead time,” said Flores. “You would walk down Center Street and there was nothing. He’s really taken the different communities in Provo and worked with them to activate the space, activate the city.”

Curtis plans to pursue a dual path to the ballot — he’ll be running in the Utah GOP’s special caucus convention in June as well as gathering signatures.

Among his many challengers on the right are three state lawmakers and Tanner Ainge, son of famed NBA player and manager Danny Ainge. 

“Whenever you have an open seat, that is when everyone comes out from the woodwork and everybody that’s been wanting to run for a while is going to throw their hat in the ring,” said Jessica Preece, a political science professor at Brigham Young University. 

Preece said it’s too early to make predictions, but Curtis and other candidates have a lot of work ahead of them, including fundraising and campaigning across the sprawling district, which stretches from Salt Lake to Blanding.

All that has to happen before their party nominating conventions in June and a potential August 15 primary.  

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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