POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Gov. Cox forced into primary at convention, criticizes caucus-convention system

Apr 29, 2024, 11:36 AM | Updated: 11:49 am

Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at GOP Convention...

Utah Gov.Spencer J. Cox, candidate for governor, speaks during the Utah Republican Party state nominating convention at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 27, 2024. (Marielle Scott, Deseret News)

(Marielle Scott, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Spencer Cox, who lost at the GOP convention, criticized the Utah Republican Party’s caucus-convention system during a speech Saturday.

Cox’s speech drew many boos and some cheers. He lost at convention 2-to-1 but will appear on the June primary ballot. 

The difference in crowd reaction was palpable between Cox and his rival, State Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding.

Criticism of the Republicans’ caucus-convention system

Cox thanked his supporters for showing up. Then, he tied the jeers against him to a larger criticism of the state’s caucus-convention system.

“[Critics] are telling us the caucus-convention system has been hijacked by extremists who don’t represent the real Republicans in our state,” said Cox. “And I hope we’re not giving them more ammunition today.”

“I am so proud to be welcomed here today the same way you would welcome lots of Republican governors over the years,” said Cox. “Governor [Gary] Herbert got booed here and lost by ten points but won by forty points in the Republican primary. Governor [Mike] Leavitt got booed here, lost in convention, won in the primary.”

According to KSL.com, Herbert won just 44% of the vote in convention before winning the primary with 72% of the votes in 2016.

Cox pointed to his conservative credentials, including what he called, “the biggest tax cut in Utah history” and constitutional carry of firearms.

As for the reason behind the boos, he said, “Maybe it’s something much more simple. Maybe you just hate that I don’t hate enough.”

Lyman, asked the crowd whether they “felt the big tax cut.”

Delegates yelled out, “No.”

“What about the 55% increase in property taxes over the last 3 years–have you felt that?” Lyman asked.

Delegates shouted “yes” in response to Lyman’s final question.

Convention results

Lyman won the convention election with 67.5% of the vote. However, Cox has already qualified for the June primary ballot by gathering signatures.

It was a difficult night for incumbents.

Related: Utah Republican legislative candidates advance out of state convention

Rep. Celeste Maloy lost to a challenger supported by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, but she still managed to advance to the primary ballot because she earned over 40% of the vote, according to KSL.com.

The state school board chairman lost overwhelmingly, winning over only 25% of delegates, according to the Deseret News.

Former President Donald Trump endorsed Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs just hours before the convention.

Staggs proceeded to double the votes of his nearest competition in all four rounds of Senate voting.

He ultimately beat out well-known Rep. John Curtis, earning 69.74% of votes to Curtis’s 30.26%.

The primary election takes place on June 25.

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Gov. Cox forced into primary at convention, criticizes caucus-convention system