PROVO, Utah — Mayor John Curtis declared victory in the Republican primary election to replace Jason Chaffetz, who resigned earlier this year.
Mail-in ballot and some polling place results from the seven counties in Utah's 3rd Congressional District showed Curtis with 42% of the vote to 30% by former state Rep. Chris Herrod. Tanner Ainge conceded the race early in the evening, winning 27% of the vote.
In a victory speech delivered to a ballroom filled with supporters, Curtis took note of an increasingly negative campaign, with more than a million dollars in political action committee advertising mostly targeting him.
"They said you couldn't survive almost a million dollars of attack ads aimed at your character," he said to laughter from the crowd.
Curtis said he was proud he did not go negative and looked forward to the general election, urging his opponents' supporters to back him.
"I'm looking forward to a good, vigorous debate on the issues. We know we're right about the issues, I look forward to talking about them," Curtis told FOX 13 just after declaring victory.
Herrod was not conceding the race late Tuesday night.
"We haven't given up hope," he said in a live interview on FOX 13 News at Nine, adding: "We're still looking at the numbers."
Utah County, which encompasses 60% of the population of the 3rd Congressional District, is expected to provide more complete numbers on Friday when provisional ballots and remaining mail-in ballot results are released.
Utah County Clerk-Auditor Bryan Thompson told FOX 13 he anticipated a higher than normal turnout.
"Traditionally we have between 15 and 20 percent, but then with the 3rd congressional on top of that, we’re pushing 30," he said.
After he was declared the projected winner, some of Curtis' opponents chimed in on the race.
"I congratulate Mayor Curtis on his primary win and look forward to facing him in the general election," Democratic challenger Dr. Kathie Allen said in a statement.
Jim Bennett of the newly formed United Utah Party said he also looked forward to challenging Curtis in November (Bennett had to sue to get on the ballot).
"Mayor Curtis is a good and decent man, so he ought to be uncomfortable in the Party of Trump," Bennett wrote in an emailed statement.
Utah GOP chairman Rob Anderson predicted that the 3rd District seat would remain in Republican hands. The November special election will replace Chaffetz, who quit shortly after winning re-election. Chaffetz is now a FOX News Channel commentator.