LOCAL NEWS

Utah’s GOP congressional delegation face primary challengers

Jun 28, 2022, 9:37 AM | Updated: 2:23 pm

Utah County residents vote in-person during the 2020 General Election on Nov. 3, 2020. (KSL-TV)...

Utah County residents vote in-person during the 2020 General Election on Nov. 3, 2020. (KSL-TV)

(KSL-TV)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — All four members of the U.S. House from Utah are facing Republican primary challengers Tuesday while the Democratic challengers they’ll face in November are running uncontested.

It is the first primary election since the GOP-controlled state Legislature bypassed an independent redistricting commission and approved political maps that critics decried as gerrymandered because they split up Democratic-leaning Salt Lake City, effectively shoring up Republican advantages in each of the state’s four districts.

The night’s headline race is for the U.S. Senate with Republican Mike Lee trying to fend off two challengers in his bid for a third term. Much like that race, several Republican primaries for U.S. House seats pit Trump-aligned populists against Republicans disillusioned with the direction he’s taken the party who’ve lightly criticized him.

In Utah’s four congressional races, first-term Congressman Blake Moore is facing two challengers and Chris Stewart, John Curtis and Burgess Owens each face one. At the state GOP’s April convention, party delegates, known for leaning further right than the party’s overall electorate, backed Moore and Curtis’ opponents, forcing the two to gather signatures to quality for the primary ballot.

The Republican primary winners will be favorites in the general elections in an overwhelmingly red state where none of the state’s congressional districts post-redistricting were rated as battlegrounds.

Here’s a look at Utah’s congressional races:

1ST DISTRICT

Conservative businessman Blake Moore is serving his first term representing the northernmost parts of the state, as well as stretches of eastern Utah, including the ski town of Park City. During his first run, Moore resided outside his district’s borders, yet redistricting drew the Ogden native into its borders.

He is facing two challengers — Andrew Badger and Tina Cannon. Cannon, a former Morgan County councilwoman, lost to Moore in the 2020 primary but hopes her fiscal conservative message will resonate amid inflation and skyrocketing cost of living. Badger, who won the delegate vote at the state party convention in April, has focused on hard-right flashpoints, including anger over coronavirus mandates and how race, gender and sexuality are taught in K-12 schools. He’s also campaigned against Utah’s universal vote by-mail system.

Moore, by contrast, calls himself a “Big Tent Republican” and argues a moderate approach is most effective for the state. He initially voted for an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection and later invited Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney — who’s won scorn from many in the GOP for her remarks about former President Donald Trump — to fundraise for him.

The winner will take on Democrat Rick Jones, who faces no primary opponent, in November.

2ND DISTRICT

Fourth-term Rep. Chris Stewart is facing a primary challenger for the first time. Stewart once criticized Trump but later became a staunch supporter. His opponent, Erin Rider, is an attorney from Salt Lake City who describes herself as a consensus builder and did not vote for Trump in 2020. Trump endorsed Stewart on Monday.

The district stretches from parts of Salt Lake City to the fast-growing southern city of St. George.

The winner will take on Democrat Nicholas Mitchell, who was nominated at the state party’s April convention.

3RD DISTRICT

Rep. John Curtis, a moderate Republican known for founding the Conservative Climate Caucus, is again facing a former state lawmaker who has attacked him from the right. Chris Herrod is among the hard-right Republicans who derisively label opponents “ Mitt Romney Republicans ” and likens Curtis’ energy policies to the “Green New Deal.” Herrod won the delegate vote at the state party’s April convention.

The primary will be the third face-off for the two men; Curtis has soundly defeated Herrod in the past primary elections. The 3rd District includes Provo, where Curtis previously served as mayor, and stretches to Utah’s southeastern corner, encompassing the tourist town Moab.

The winner will take on Democrat Glenn Wright, who was nominated at the state party’s April convention.

4TH DISTRICT

Congressman Burgess Owens, a former NFL player, is running for a second term in a district that spans south from Salt Lake City suburbs into right-leaning rural areas. A frequent Fox News guest and convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Owens toppled the state’s lone congressional Democrat in 2020 to become one of two Black Republicans in the U.S. House.

Owens, who received Trump’s endorsement on Monday, eschewed norms by skipping a routine annual meeting with legislative Democrats earlier this year and declined to debate his primary challenger, Jake Hunsaker.

Hunsaker has attacked Owens for what he’s called “extreme views” and said he agrees with many of Trump’s policies yet takes issue with how his rhetoric has polarized the political landscape.

The winner will take on Democrat Darlene McDonald, who faces no primary opponent.

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Utah’s GOP congressional delegation face primary challengers