POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Utah GOP nominates Lyman for governor’s race, he’ll meet Gov. Cox in a primary

Apr 27, 2024, 5:19 PM | Updated: 6:28 pm

Utah state Rep. Phil Lyman, a candidate for governor, addresses nearly 4,000 delegates at the Utah ...

Utah state Rep. Phil Lyman, a candidate for governor, addresses nearly 4,000 delegates at the Utah Republican Party Convention, Saturday, April 27, 2024, in Salt Lake City. On May 3, a 3rd District Judge ruled that Layne Bangerter, Lyman's gubernatorial running mate, was not eligible due to constitutional residency restrictions. (Hannah Schoenbaum, Associated Press)

(Hannah Schoenbaum, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — State Rep. Phil Lyman was selected as the Utah Republican gubernatorial nominee at the party’s convention Saturday, though political observers say incumbent Gov. Spencer Cox remains the likely favorite in the upcoming primary.

Lyman, a former county commissioner turned legislator best known for organizing an illegal ATV ride in 2014 in protest of a federal land decision, won about two-thirds of votes from the nearly 4,000 delegates, who tend to skew to the right.

Utah GOP voters generally prefer moderates in statewide elections, however, so the more moderate Cox, who took office in 2021, is seen as well positioned for the June 25 primary. He has gathered enough signatures to qualify for that ballot despite not getting the nod from the convention, and would go on the general election ballot in November if he wins in June.

Delegates were also set to vote later in the marque race to succeed U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, the state’s best-known centrist Republican, who often made waves for opposing former President Donald Trump and other leaders of the party.

The pool of nearly a dozen Republicans vying to replace Romney includes a congressman, a Trump-backed mayor, a former state legislative leader and the lawyer son of Utah’s longest-serving U.S. senator. While some have sought to align themselves with farther-right figures such as Trump and Utah’s other senator, Mike Lee, others distanced themselves in an effort to appeal to the widest swath of voters.

“This seat gets to be sort of a flashpoint between the two major factions of the party in the state,” Utah State University political scientist James Curry said. “On one hand you have the more moderate faction that Romney really embodied, not just here but nationwide, versus the more pro-Trump faction that often hasn’t been as successful with Utah voters when there’s been a viable moderate option.”

Trump made a last-minute endorsement in the Senate contest for Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, writing Saturday morning on his Truth Social platform that Staggs is a “100% MAGA” candidate who knows how to create jobs, stop inflation, grow the economy and secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump’s endorsement could carry Staggs, 49, through the convention but may not translate to success at the ballot box. Republican Party nominations historically have had little bearing on who Utah voters choose to represent them.

Staggs supporter Eric Buckley, a Davis County delegate, celebrated the endorsement and said he’s confident it will be well received by Utah voters. Buckley said he already had vetted the Senate contenders months before and chosen to back Staggs — the first to enter the race even before Romney announced he wasn’t seeking reelection.

“It was his stance on the corruption in D.C. that exists and his promise to stand up against the moderate Republicans and the Democrats pushing through their agenda without any type of resistance,” Buckley said of his support for Staggs.

Even some GOP delegates who support other top contenders — former state House Speaker Brad Wilson and U.S. Rep. John Curtis — said they may vote for Staggs as the party nominee because he is a convention-only candidate, meaning he has not collected signatures to guarantee his spot on the primary ballot.

Both Wilson and Curtis already have collected enough signatures to qualify for the primary regardless of Saturday’s outcome. Staggs and other convention-only candidates must earn at least 40% of votes Saturday to advance.

Tim Lindsay, a Cache County delegate who attended the convention wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, said although he supports Trump, the former president’s endorsement will have little impact on how he votes. His vote will go to “the most conservative candidate” who has not collected signatures.
“That’s a cheap way out,” Lindsay said of signature gathering. “I respect a candidate who respects the convention process.”

Wilson, 55, has endorsed Trump’s reelection bid and promises to be a “conservative fighter” on Capitol Hill. His elaborate expo booth in the convention hall featured a tractor plowing through a pile of cinder blocks labeled the “Biden Agenda.”

Curtis, 63, who is seen as the more moderate of the two frontrunners, has been compared to Romney for pushing back against hardliners in his party, particularly on climate change. He is expected to have broad appeal among primary voters.

Davis County delegate Jonathan Miller, who donned a “Team Mitt” baseball cap, said Curtis is his pick to replace the retiring senator because he already has proven himself in Congress as someone who works across the aisle to get things done.

The 2014 protest ride organized by Lyman came after federal officials closed a southeast Utah canyon to motorized vehicles to protect Native American cliff dwellings, artifacts and burials. Lyman argued that the closure was an overreach by the federal government.

He was sentenced in 2015 to 10 days behind bars and three years of probation, accused by federal prosecutors of using his position as a county official to encourage people to break the law.

Lyman has since leveraged his notoriety over the protest to boost his political career, vowing to stand up to any federal overreach.

Related:

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Politics + Government

mitt romney at johns hopkins commencement ceremony...

Sam Herrera

Mitt Romney’s commencement speech at Johns Hopkins University interrupted by protesters

Sen. Mitt Romney was briefly interrupted by protestors as he spoke at Johns Hopkins University's commencement ceremony on Thursday,

4 days ago

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall speaks at the City-County Building in Salt Lake City, May 5, 2...

Aimee Cobabe

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall is asking for a pay raise

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall is looking to increase her pay for up to 26% which will make an additional $44,000 a year. She is also proposing a 5% pay increase for all city employees for this year.

4 days ago

Senator Mitt Romney addresses ongoing drought conditions in Utah during a Budget Committee hearing ...

Alexandrea Bonilla

Senator Mitt Romney says we should be doing more to combat drought

Senator Mitt Romney is taking a look at how money is being spent on drought-related issues and pushing for more collaboration on the subject.

4 days ago

nikki haley shown, she endorsed trump...

Sam Herrera

Nikki Haley endorses Trump for president

The endorsement comes months after Haley ended her own presidential bid in March.

5 days ago

the us house of representatives shown at the capitol, the house passed a bill about sodium nitrite...

Allessandra Harris Gurr

House passes bill to ban a compound used in suicides

Legislation backed by Rep. Celeste Maloy would ban the consumer sale of sodium nitrite, a product becoming increasingly common in suicides.

5 days ago

Former U.S. President Donald Trump returns to the courtroom after a break on the first day of his t...

Sam Herrera

Defense rests case in Trump hush money trial

The defense in the hush money trial rested its case just a day after the prosecution rested.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

Utah GOP nominates Lyman for governor’s race, he’ll meet Gov. Cox in a primary