SANDY, Utah — Thousands of Utah Republican Party delegates packed the Mountain America Expo Center to pick candidates for the upcoming election cycle.
Delegates largely chose to support incumbent Republicans serving in Congress, though they all face primaries. In the most watched race of the day, Sen. Mike Lee easily won the convention nomination with 70% of the vote. He was greeted by loud cheers from delegates as he took the stage.
But Becky Edwards and Ally Isom have both gathered enough signatures to qualify for the June primary ballot. Under the dual path allowed by law, they have now forced Sen. Lee into a primary.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Utah's senior senator said he would focus on his record.
"I'm going to continue to focus on that and the fact that we don’t need any more of Joe Biden’s policies," he said.
Sen. Lee also answered questions about text messages he sent about overturning the results of the 2020 election. The senator told reporters he did nothing wrong and the evidence shows he was not seeking to undermine the election and voted to certify it.
"If you read my text messages in their entirety, I think they confirm I wasn’t. If you read them in conjunction with the statement I made after the Electoral College convened and cast its votes and with the statement I made on the Senate floor on Jan. 6, it’s consistent with those things," he told reporters.
Edwards and Isom each said they planned to highlight their alternative viewpoints to Sen. Lee.
"I think we need a change if we keep sending the same voices to Washington DC and the same voices to power. We’re going to get the same outcomes," Isom told reporters after the vote.
Edwards said voters she's been speaking to believe it's time for a change.
"Congress is broken, Sen. Lee is contributing to this divisive gridlock and they want to see something better," she said.
Whomever advances from the June primary will face a different kind of race. Utah Democratic Party delegates voted not to advance a candidate for U.S. Senate, rejecting Kael Weston for the nomination. That shifts support for independent Senate candidate Evan McMullin, who has said he is building a coalition with the goal of unseating Sen. Lee.
Word of the Democratic delegates' actions reached Saturday's Utah GOP convention. Party chair Carson Jorgensen warned Republican delegates to be prepared in November.
"We need all of you to show up. If I can stress anything to you today, it is this: Show up. Because this is what is going to matter. They are willing to put down their own party, to put down their own candidate because they don’t even believe in their own policy," he told the crowd.
Each of Utah's incumbent congressional representatives faces a primary in June. Delegates forced 1st District Rep. Blake Moore into a primary against Andrew Badger (who narrowly missed winning the nomination outright). Rep. Moore will face Badger and Tina Cannon, who gathered signatures for a spot on the primary.
Rep. Chris Stewart won the convention nomination but faces a primary against Erin Rider, who gathered signatures. Rep. Burgess Owens also won the convention nomination, but will face Jake Hunsaker, who gathered signatures to earn a spot on the ballot.
Only Rep. John Curtis and his opponents went all-in on convention delegates. It was a high stakes political gamble that paid off. Jason Preston, Tim Aalders and Lyman Wight were eliminated in the first round. Former state lawmaker Chris Herrod got 54% of the vote and Rep. Curtis got 45%. They will face off — like they have before.
"I'm here. They sent me off for a primary and I don’t know that i can ask for any more than that," Rep. Curtis told reporters after the vote.
Herrod said he believes the results this time will be different.
"I think there’s good grassroots support and I'm looking forward to it this time around," he told FOX 13 News.