Utah's Statewide And Congressional Primary Races Decided
Updated 5:54 p.m. MDT 7/8/2020
Utahns voted in an influential primary election June 30. There is an open seat for Governor for the first time since 2004, and four Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination. Utah’s incumbent Attorney General Sean Reyes is being challenged by another Republican. The 1st Congressional District is an open seat for the first time since 2002, and Republicans and Democrats are facing off in their own primaries for the chance to compete for the seat in November.
GOVERNOR — REPUBLICAN
Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has won the Republican primary for governor, according to the Associated Press.
Cox bested former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman by more than 9,000 votes. As of Monday afternoon’s election results update, Cox had received 36.4% of the vote to Huntsman’s 34.6%.
In a press release on Monday, Cox said he and his running mate, State Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, were humbled by Utah voters’ support.
“As farm kids from Sanpete County, Abby [his wife] and I never dreamed of having this opportunity. If elected in November, we will take our rural values of hard work, honesty, and responsibility to the Governor’s office each day.”
Cox said the next four years will help determine Utah’s future.
“We must rebuild our economy, restore the joy of teaching for our educators, and bring new opportunities for smart growth to both the Wasatch Front and rural Utah.”
Last week, former speaker of the Utah House Greg Hughes and former GOP Chair Thomas Wright each conceded.
Cox will go on to face Democrat Chris Peterson in the November general election. A Democrat hasn’t served as Utah governor since 1985.
ATTORNEY GENERAL — REPUBLICAN
On Friday, The Associated Press declared Sean Reyes the Republican nominee for Utah attorney general.
Utah’s incumbent attorney general led his primary challenger, Utah County Attorney David Leavitt, by 41,159 votes.
Although Leavitt hasn’t conceded, it’s unlikely he could make up the difference with the remaining uncounted ballots.
That means Reyes is on track to face Democrat Greg Skordas in the November general election.
Skordas unsuccessfully ran for Utah attorney general in 2004, but he said after seeing Reyes receive political campaign contributions, he felt it was time to run again.
“The office hasn’t gotten any better in the 16 years since his predecessors were there,” Skordas said. “In fact, it seems to have gotten worse.”
A Democrat hasn’t held the office in nearly 20 years, but Skordas said he thinks Utahns are ready for a change.
“Our legislature and our attorney general won’t do what the people want, and I just think that lack of balance has really created a problem in this state,” he said.
Reyes called Skordas’ criticism a “smear tactic” and said candidates in all parties legally and ethically take donations to support their campaigns.
1ST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT — REPUBLICAN
Blake Moore has won the GOP primary for Utah’s 1st Congressional District, according to the Associated Press. On Monday afternoon, Moore increased his lead over Bob Stevenson to 2,837 votes. Kerry Gibson conceded his loss on Thursday, saying he would support whoever the Republican nominee is. Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt ended in last place, nearly 18,000 votes behind Moore.
1ST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT — DEMOCRAT
Utah’s last congressional primary election came to a close Wednesday. Darren Parry will be the Democratic nominee for Utah’s 1st Congressional District.
After the state elections office released more results Wednesday afternoon, Parry led his opponent, Jamie Cheek, by 441 votes.
Cheek’s campaign team said even though ballots remain to be counted, they don’t see a pathway to victory. She conceded the race.
Cheek ran a progressive campaign against Parry, who identifies as a moderate Democrat.
Parry will face Republican Blake Moore in the November general election.
Parry said throughout the campaign he thought he would have a better chance in the general election than the primary, worrying that Democratic voters in the district would lean more progressive.
A Democrat hasn’t held the seat for nearly 40 years, but Parry said he believes Republicans will support him.
4TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT — REPUBLICAN
Former NFL Player Burgess Owens won the Republican Primary for the 4th Congressional District, according to the Associated Press, which called the race just 9 minutes after the first results were released.
Owens won by a wide margin. As of 10:29 p.m. on Tuesday he was 20% ahead of his runner-up, state Rep. Kim Coleman, with 76% of precincts reporting.
Owens’ campaign has focused on criticizing socialism, criminal justice reform and education.
“I'm just very thankful that the message I have resonates with so many within my district,” Owens said. “I've been able to kind of articulate that and stand very, very strongly for the culture, the things that we know is right: God, family, country.”
He will face the state’s only Democratic member of Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams, in November. McAdams won the district by less than 700 votes in 2018 and is high on national Republicans’ priority list to unseat.
“It's not so much about Ben,” Owens said. “It’s about the direction our country wants to go in. The values that we've built upon or this new radical chaos left that is against everything that we've always stood for.”
Coleman, who had around 24% of the vote, positioned herself as a conservative with a proven track record in state legislature. She conceded and endorsed Owens Wednesday.
Former KSL radio talk show host Jay Mcfarland billed himself as a candidate with conservative ideals, who would act like a moderate by reaching across the aisle. He also conceded Wednesday but did not endorse Owens.
Businessman and former Romney fundraiser Trent Christensen focused his campaign on economic recovery from COVID-19.
Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow Sonja on Twitter @SonjaHutson
Emily Means covers politics for KUER. Follow Emily on Twitter @Em_Means13