Utah GOP overwhelmingly chooses Sen. Mike Lee as nominee, but he still faces primary

Senator Mike Lee walks onto stage to give his candidacy speech during the GOP Convention at the Mountain America Convention Center in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday.

Senator Mike Lee walks onto stage to give his candidacy speech during the GOP Convention at the Mountain America Convention Center in Sandy, Utah, on Saturday. (Adam Fondren for the Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Perhaps the only intrigue going into the Utah Republican Party state convention was how loudly delegates would cheer for Sen. Mike Lee — despite his newly revealed White House text messages — and whether Rep. John Curtis would survive.

The answer to the first question came quickly. Many of the 3,690 delegates gave Lee a standing ovation when he took the stage. They also made it clear he is their preferred candidate with nearly 71% of the vote, which would have propelled him to the general election in November had two of his opponents not already forced him into a primary.

Still, Lee is considered the party nominee.

Former state legislator Becky Edwards, and community and business leader Ally Isom have already qualified for the primary election through signature gathering, as had Lee, in Utah's dual candidate nominating process.

On the second question, Curtis barely made it through the convention and will face Chris Herrod for the third time since 2017.

The 2022 primary marks the fourth time Herrod and Curtis will have faced each other. Herrod beat Curtis in a Utah House race years ago.

Lee told delegates that Republicans have much to offer because they follow the Constitution.

"The price to live in Joe Biden's America is way, way too high," he said. "Biden wants to open our borders, we say no. Biden wants to push for more mandates and pack the Supreme Court, we say no."

Lee said CRT, ESG and MSNBC is "way too much BS," referring to critical race theory, a credit rating system that includes environmental, social and governance indicators, and the cable news outlet.

Edwards, who picked up nearly 12% of delegate vote, said her goal has always been the primary election.

"We feel really enthusiastic," she said

In her travels across the state, Edwards said she repeatedly hears from people that Congress is broken and Lee is contributing to the divisive gridlock. Utahns, she said, want to see something better.

"I want to see a future where we celebrate solutions more than sound bites, a future where asking pointed questions is more important than pointing fingers," she said in her speech.

Edwards drew a loud boos when she said Lee has not kept his campaign promises. Even though that message didn't resonate with delegates, she said she expects it will with Utah voters in general.

Isom, who received just under 10% of the vote, told delegates that they need to reclaim "what makes us Republicans." Buzzwords and hot-button issues will make people mad at the government, the media and each other, she said.

"I understand the anger. We want our country back," she said. "Join our Republican renaissance. Reject the fear. Reject the anger."

1st Congressional District

Andrew Badger fell just shy of the 60% of the vote needed to become the Republican nominee in the 1st District, but earned his way into what will be a three-person primary election.

Badger, who describes himself as a "strong conservative," says he will join the House Freedom Caucus, if elected. It is considered to be the most conservative bloc in the House Republican Conference.

A graduate of Harvard and Oxford, he most recently worked as a risk manager for a management consulting firm and was an intelligence officer for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

Freshman Rep. Blake Moore and challenger Tina Cannon, a former Morgan County Council member, already qualified for the primary through signature gathering.

2nd Congressional District

Delegates overwhelmingly picked incumbent Rep. Chris Stewart as the GOP nominee in the 2nd District with almost 85% of the vote. Challenger Erin Rider, a Salt Lake attorney, received 15% of the vote.

Still, Stewart will face a primary election for the first time since being elected a decade ago. Rider gathered signatures ahead of the convention to secure a spot on the primary ballot. Stewart said he has never collected signatures and never will, telling delegates he trusts them.

3rd Congressional District

Curtis, who has served in Congress for 4½ years, will face Herrod for the third time since 2017. Curtis defeated Herrod in a three-person special election in 2017 and in a primary in 2018. Curtis didn't have a primary in 2020.

The 2022 primary marks the fourth time Herrod and Curtis will have faced each other. Herrod beat Curtis in a Utah House race years ago.

"It's deja vu," Curtis said. "Chris wants to serve instead of me, so he keeps running against me."

Curtis held 40 meetings with delegates ahead of the convention. They expressed frustration and anger with how things are going in Washington, D.C., he said.

While Herrod has fared well with delegates, who tend to be more conservative than most Utah Republicans, Curtis has done better with in the primary elections.

"I'm not taking anything for granted. We're going to work hard. We've got to earn every vote," he said.

Herrod, who jumped into the race just before the filing deadline, said he's ready to take on Curtis again. He said he has good grassroots support and looks forward to the race. Herrod said the delegates understand the conservative message. And now that Curtis has been in office, he has a voting record.

"It's much different on the issues than I would have voted," Herrod said, citing Curtis' vote for a Jan. 6 investigative committee, among others. "I think we'll have a good debate and it will be competitive."

4th Congressional District

Freshman Rep. Burgess Owens is the delegates' preferred nominee, winning just over 68% of the vote. Still, he and Jake Hunsaker, who works in business analytics and operations management, will square off in a primary election. While Hunsaker collected signatures to get on the ballot, Owens signed up to do so but didn't turn in any names. He relied on convention delegates to get him through.

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Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.


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