SALT LAKE CITY (AP) —Utah’s primary elections are taking shape Saturday as core party members meet to hear from candidates in several races, including reelection contests for GOP Sen. Mike Lee and Congressman John Curtis.
Meanwhile, Democrats are separately weighing an unusual push to choose no one to go up against Lee, and instead throw their weight behind an independent contender, Evan McMullin.
Lee handily won the nomination at the GOP convention with over 70% of the vote, but his two challengers will still appear on the primary ballot since they used the other path to the primary ballot: gathering signatures.
For many political hopefuls, the conventions are where core party members decide who will appear on the primary ballot in June. That’s the case in the race for U.S. House District 3, which Curtis holds. A moderate Republican, he is facing four challengers and could have an uphill battle on his hands since the delegates tend to be more conservative than the rest of the Republican electorate in Utah.
Curtis was first elected in a 2017 special election to replace departing Congressman Jason Chaffetz, and was reelected the following year. While candidates in Utah can also gather signatures to secure their place on the primary ballot, all five hopefuls this year are relying on the votes of convention delegates.
Candidates must secure 60% of the delegate vote to become the sole GOP nominee. If no candidates reach that threshold, the top two vote-getters both appear on the primary ballot.
Candidates can also gather signatures to appear on the primary ballot, and two Republicans challenging Lee have both already gathered enough to secure their spots.
Former lawmaker Becky Edwards garnered about 12% of the vote Saturday and former gubernatorial deputy chief of staff Ally Isom finished just behind Edwards.
Lee‘s relationship with former president Donald Trump has been front and center since CNN reported on text messages showing that the senator was involved in early efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, though Lee later pivoted after no widespread fraud emerged.
“I did my job,” Lee said about the messages. “I did my job the way that I’ve always promised I would go about doing my job.”
Meanwhile, Democrats are also meeting to choose their nominees this weekend. They’ll consider a proposition from some of the most prominent members of the state’s minority party to avoid nominating anyone for the race, in order to get behind independent candidate Evan McMullin. The conservative former CIA officer ran for president in 2016 and garnered a significant chunk of the vote in Utah, where many GOP voters nevertheless had reservations about then-candidate Trump.
But there is a Democrat running for the nomination, Kael Weston, and his supporters are pushing back against the idea.
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