AP News Guide: Utah’s primary election
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah’s Republican voters will decide Tuesday whether to revive former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s political career by making him their nominee to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch.
Romney’s primary matchup against state Rep. Mike Kennedy is the highest profile race Tuesday..
Voters up and down the state will select nominees to the U.S. House, state Legislature and local offices.
Republican U.S. Rep. John Curtis is trying to defend his seat in Congress against a challenge from businessman Chris Herrod.
In the 1st Congressional District, Democrats Kurt Weiland and Lee Castillo will square off to see who will challenge eight-term U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop.
Polls are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. A majority of voters are likely to have voted early or by mail in the two weeks leading up to Tuesday.
Here’s a look at the notable Utah primary races:
Romney’s attempt at a political rebirth took a stumble when he came in a narrow second to conservative lawmaker Kennedy among right-leaning delegates at the Utah GOP convention in April. The two were forced into a runoff primary since neither won 60 percent of delegates’ votes to secure the nomination outright. Now, the former Massachusetts governor is heavily favored going into Tuesday’s primary. He has strong name recognition and is adored around the state for helping turn around the 2002 Winter Olympics. His status as the first Mormon presidential nominee of a major political party has also won him fans in a state where roughly 60 percent of the population is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Kennedy has positioned himself as a homegrown alternative to the political heavyweight, but he has refrained from mud-slinging that might be looked on unfavorably in a state that prides itself on civility. The winner will be the heavy favorite in the general election against Democrat Salt Lake County Council member Jenny Wilson.
Curtis came just a few votes shy of winning the GOP nomination at the party’s April convention and is now matched up against Herrod, a businessman and former state lawmaker, in the primary. The race is a rematch of the 2017 special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, when Curtis won a three-way primary. Herrod said he’s running to give voters in the heavily Republican district a conservative choice in line with President Donald Trump. Curtis said he’s in step with Utah voters, many of whom are conflicted about Trump. The winner will be the heavy favorite against Democrat James Singer and United Utah Party candidate Melanie McCoard in November.
Democrats in the 1st District, which runs across northern Utah, will choose businessman Weiland or social worker Castillo to try and unseat Bishop in November. Weiland is a consultant and retired Army major who’s promised to make himself accessible to his constituents. Castillo is a gay Hispanic single father who has depicted himself as a voice of a disenfranchised minority. Either would be considered an underdog against Bishop in November. United Utah Party candidate Eric Eliason is also in the race.
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL RACES:
Other congressional candidates have already secured their nominations by winning support from at least 60 percent of party convention delegates and won’t appear in Tuesday’s primary. Republicans nominated Bishop as well as U.S. Reps. Mia Love and Chris Stewart to defend their seats in Congress. Democrats will be putting Wilson on the ballot for the Senate alongside Singer, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams and University of Utah official Shireen Ghorbani for the U.S. House. The United Utah Party has nominated McCoard, Eliason and nonprofit founder Jan Garbett for the U.S. House.
In Utah County, Pleasant Grove Police Chief Mike Smith and retired U.S. Marshal Jim Phelps are competing to replace retiring Sheriff Jim Tracy. No opponents from other parties have registered to run in the race, so the primary winner will be unopposed in November.
In one of the state’s few liberal corners in Salt Lake City, the race is on to replace Utah’s only openly gay state lawmaker, Jim Dabakis. The outspoken Dabakis has said his replacement in the state Senate should be Derek Kitchen, a Salt Lake City councilman and one-half of the couple that successfully sued to overturn Utah’s same-sex marriage ban in 2013. Kitchen is running against physician Jennifer Plumb in the Democratic primary.
In the southeast, San Juan County voters will cast ballots for county seats and the school board under new district boundaries created after a judge ruled the previous map had been gerrymandered to minimize the voices of Navajo voters. A separate ongoing legal battle over the disqualification of Democrat county commission candidate Willie Grayeyes won’t affect Tuesday’s vote because he received the party’s nomination at the county convention in March.