Signature-gathering candidates won major races in Utah GOP primary

Posted at 5:43 PM, Jun 26, 2024

SALT LAKE CITY — Candidates who gathered signatures appeared to secure primary election wins, once again highlighting a difference of opinion between those advanced by state party delegates and Republican voters at large.

Governor Spencer Cox, Congressman John Curtis and Derek Brown were among those who lost nominations at the Utah GOP convention (the governor was even booed by delegates), but won decisively in the primary. Congressman Blake Moore, who was forced into a primary by delegates, also gathered signatures just in case.

"You have these two alternative paths to the ballot, the caucus-convention or signature gatherers. Tonight, signature gatherers are the ones that are winning these races which clearly shows where Utahns are," Jason Perry, the director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics, told FOX 13 News in an interview Tuesday night. "It’s going to highlight that discussion we’re having as to where the delegates are and where the mainstream Republicans in the state of Utah are."

Convention delegates tend to advance more hardline candidates. That's one reason why "Count My Vote" was launched in 2014. The citizen ballot initiative sought to end the caucus-convention system in favor of a direct primary. In a compromise with the Utah State Legislature, the law was amended to allow candidates to go through the caucus-convention system, gather signatures, or do both.

This year, many candidates did both as an insurance policy.

For Curtis, it paid off. He is the projected winner of the U.S. Senate Republican primary, winning with over 50% of the vote as of Wednesday evening. At the Utah GOP convention, he got only 30% delegate support.

"We feel very gratified by that margin and I don’t mind saying a little bit frustrated by the convention margin," Curtis told FOX 13 News. "But I view that as a challenge. I have more work to do with the delegates. I have to work harder to gain their trust and support."

Derek Brown, the former Utah GOP chair who ran for attorney general, finished in last place in the Utah GOP convention behind Frank Mylar and Rachel Terry. As of Wednesday, he had nearly 45% of the vote. Terry had nearly 33% and Mylar had about 23% of the vote.

In the major races, Mike Kennedy won at the Utah GOP convention and also cruised to victory in the 3rd Congressional District race.

On Wednesday, Utah GOP Chair Rob Axson congratulated all the winners and called for Republicans to come together.

"As a party, we now invite Republicans to unify around our principles and our nominees. Together, we can secure victories in every race. Together, we can gain seats in Salt Lake and Weber Counties. Together, we can grow support for our values. Together, we can help return Republican control to the US Senate and the White House. Together, we can elevate principles, dialogue, and results," he said in a statement.

In updated election results, Trump-endorsed Congresswoman Celeste Maloy maintained a narrow lead over challenger Colby Jenkins (who was endorsed by Sen. Mike Lee). Gov. Cox maintained his lead over Phil Lyman, who told FOX 13 News on Wednesday he was not ready to concede.

"I think we’re entitled to some verification of the results. It’s interesting that that gets so much push back," he said. "In my profession as a CPA, we verify things before we certify things and I think it’s a fair demand."

Gov. Cox told FOX 13 News the Lyman campaign declining to concede "says more about them than it does about us."

"I'm just grateful for the people who supported us and we’re grateful to be able to represent Republicans on the ballot in November," he said.