SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah’s primary elections will begin to take shape Saturday as senior party members gather to hear from candidates in several races, including re-election contests for GOP Sen. Mike Lee and Congressman John Curtis.
Meanwhile, Democrats will separately weigh an unusual push to choose no one to face Lee, and instead throw their weight behind an independent contender, Evan McMullin.
For many political hopefuls, the conventions are where senior party members decide who will appear in the primary ballot in June. Such is the case in the race for US House District 3, which Curtis owns. A moderate Republican, he faces four challengers and could have an uphill battle since delegates tend to be more conservative than the rest of Utah’s Republican electorate.
Curtis was first elected in a 2017 special election to replace incumbent Congressman Jason Chaffetz, and won re-election the following year. While Utah candidates can also collect signatures to secure their spot on the primary ballot, the five hopefuls this year are relying on votes from convention delegates.
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Candidates must obtain 60% of the delegate vote to become the sole GOP nominee. If no candidate meets this threshold, the first two voters both appear on the primary ballot.
The two Republicans challenging Lee, however, have both already garnered enough signatures to secure their spot on the ballots, as has Lee.
Still, former state legislator Becky Edwards and former chief of staff to Governor Ally Isom will present their cases to delegates on Saturday. Lee’s relationship with former President Donald Trump has been in focus since CNN reported text messages showing the senator was involved in early efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, though he later pivoted after no widespread fraud emerged.
Meanwhile, Democrats are also meeting to choose their candidates this weekend. They will consider a proposal by some of the state’s most prominent minority party members 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 share of the vote in Utah, where many GOP voters nevertheless had reservations about then-candidate Trump.
But there is a Democrat vying for the nomination, Kael Weston, and his supporters are pushing back against the idea.
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