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Four-way race for GOP nod in Utah governor’s race ends

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A competitive four-way contest for the GOP nomination in the Utah…
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Poll worker Seth Ahlers checks on a voter's registration as people line up at one of 12 drive-up voting assistance centers in Salt Lake County, Utah, Tuesday, June 30, 2020, to get ballots to replace lost ones or get help for unaffiliated voters registering Republican to be able to vote in the primary. Utah was one of a handful of states that decided not to open any in-person polling places this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.(Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
1of5Poll worker Seth Ahlers checks on a voter’s registration as people line up at one of 12 drive-up voting assistance centers in Salt Lake County, Utah, Tuesday, June 30, 2020, to get ballots to replace lost ones or get help for unaffiliated voters registering Republican to be able to vote in the primary. Utah was one of a handful of states that decided not to open any in-person polling places this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.(Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)Francisco Kjolseth/AP
Poll worker Neila Jordan waits for people to pull up to one of twelve drive-up voting assistance centers in Salt Lake County, Utah, at the Northwest Recreation Center on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, as workers go to cars to help people get ballots to replace lost ones or help unaffiliated voters register Republican to be able to vote in the primary. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
2of5Poll worker Neila Jordan waits for people to pull up to one of twelve drive-up voting assistance centers in Salt Lake County, Utah, at the Northwest Recreation Center on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, as workers go to cars to help people get ballots to replace lost ones or help unaffiliated voters register Republican to be able to vote in the primary. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)Francisco Kjolseth/AP
People arrive at one of 12 drive-up voting assistance centers in Salt Lake County, Utah, this one in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, June 30, 2020, as workers go to cars to help people get ballots to replace lost ones or help unaffiliated voters register Republican to be able to vote in the primary. Utah was one of a handful of states that decided not to open any in-person polling places this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
3of5People arrive at one of 12 drive-up voting assistance centers in Salt Lake County, Utah, this one in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, June 30, 2020, as workers go to cars to help people get ballots to replace lost ones or help unaffiliated voters register Republican to be able to vote in the primary. Utah was one of a handful of states that decided not to open any in-person polling places this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)Francisco Kjolseth/AP

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A competitive four-way contest for the GOP nomination in the Utah governor’s race ended Tuesday as the final mail-in ballots were sent on their way.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and ex-U.S. Russia Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. are considered the moderate front-runners in the GOP race. Ex-House speaker Greg Hughes has gained on the right as he called for a quicker reopening during the coronavirus pandemic and Thomas Wright has positioned himself as the race’s outsider.

Huntsman has touted his international experience while Cox has the backing of incumbent Gov. Gary Herbert, who isn’t running again. The election was conducted entirely by mail due to the pandemic.


An unusual number of Democratic and independent voters crossed party lines to register as Republicans so they could participate in the closed primary, including ex-Democrat Sara Barnett, who works at a community clinic in Salt Lake City’s Sugar House neighborhood.

“I voted Republican so I could vote in this primary election just to use my voice,” said Barnett, who voted for Huntsman. “It was a little abnormal given the party change, but I feel like there were a lot of good candidates, and it was nice to be able to exercise my right to vote.”

Meanwhile, Republicans also chose a candidate to challenge the state’s lone congressional Democrat and decided whether to keep the incumbent state attorney general as their nominee.

In northern Utah, voters made their choices in the wide-open race to replace retiring longtime GOP U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop.

Results were expected to begin posting two hours after polls close, though the final outcomes will likely take longer since most county clerks will be putting ballots in quarantine for 24 hours to prevent coronavirus infection, said state elections director Justin Lee.

Here’s a look at the other races on the ballot:

— Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams is considered one of the country’s most vulnerable people in Congress after his narrow 2018 victory. Four Republicans want to challenge him in the suburban Salt Lake City district: State Rep. Kim Coleman, ex-NFL player Burgess Owens, nonprofit CEO Trent Christensen and ex-radio host Jay McFarland, who has pitched himself as a moderate.

— Meanwhile, voters of both parties in the GOP-dominated 1st District in northern Utah will be voting in primaries. On the Republican side, Blake Moore is ahead in the fundraising race despite a late entry. He’s up against Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt, who drew fire by allowing a concert during the pandemic. Ex-Utah Agricultural Commissioner Kerry Gibson and Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson are also courting voters. Democrats Jamie Cheek and Darren Parry are facing off for their party’s nod.

— Republican Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is also facing a primary challenge from David Leavitt, the top prosecutor in Utah County who’s been focused on criminal justice reform. The winner of that contest will face Democratic defense attorney Greg Skordas.

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Sophia Eppolito contributed to this story. Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.

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