What to watch for on a busy Utah primary election day

Jun 25, 2024, 11:47 AM

One Utah resident casts his vote in a blue voting booth....

Terry Swanson casts his vote Tuesday in the primary elections, Tuesday at the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City. Primary election day is Tuesday. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A long and unusually crowded 2024 primary election is almost in the books in Utah, as Republican voters will select their party’s nominees in several statewide and federal races Tuesday.

The ballot has a significant number of compelling races, after Sen. Mitt Romney announced he would step down at the end of his current term, creating a rare open seat in the U.S. Senate. Romney’s seat has four Republicans running, including Rep. John Curtis, whose seat in the 3rd Congressional District is subsequently up for grabs.

Related: County clerks hope for last-minute turnout for Utah primary elections

A couple of incumbent Republicans — Gov. Spencer Cox and Rep. Celeste Maloy — are also fending off aggressive challengers in hopes of winning reelection.

Utah primary election candidates

The race to replace Romney is the most prominent matchup of the night and has drawn millions in investment since the race began. Curtis has long been seen as the frontrunner, and a poll released by Noble Predictive Insights shows the congressman with a commanding lead over the rest of the field with 48% among likely GOP voters.

Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs is in second with 28%, followed by former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson (9%), and businessman Jason Walton (6%). The margin of error was 4.7%.

Although Staggs was endorsed by former Republican President Donald Trump, that hasn’t been enough for conservative Utah voters in polling, as Staggs’ net favorability rating of plus-1 is dwarfed by Curtis’ plus-32.

“In most Republican primaries, Trump’s endorsement essentially guarantees victory,” said David Byler, chief of research at Noble. “But in Utah — a uniquely conservative, yet Trump-skeptical state — the situation is different. Trump’s endorsement helps, but it’s not a golden ticket. A good candidate with the right positioning — like Curtis — can build a lead without Trump’s stamp of approval.”

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What to watch for on a busy Utah primary election day