Gov. Spencer Cox clinches GOP nomination while several Salt Lake County incumbents fall to primary challengers. | News | Salt Lake City Weekly

Gov. Spencer Cox clinches GOP nomination while several Salt Lake County incumbents fall to primary challengers. 

On To November

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Utah Gov. Spencer Cox will fight for reelection in November after defeating a Republican primary challenger. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Utah Gov. Spencer Cox will fight for reelection in November after defeating a Republican primary challenger.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox secured his place on the November ballot on Tuesday, winning roughly 56% of the Republican vote against challenger Phil Lyman, according to unofficial results. The victory puts Cox in pole position for a second term, barring an underdog surge from the Democratic candidate, Salt Lake City Rep. Brian King.

“I love this state and her people,” Cox posted on social media after the Associated Press called his race. “I am honored to represent my party on the ballot in November. Let’s work together to keep Utah the greatest state in the nation.”

Lyman—a Donald Trump-pardoned state House representative from Blanding whose campaign espoused a variety of baseless election-related conspiracy theories, including that Cox had somehow disrupted individual voters’ home internet connections—was preferred by delegates to the party’s nominating convention in April, but struggled to transition that support to the broader party electorate and has so far refused to concede the election. Lyman was one of several convention-endorsed candidates who failed in the primary, adding fuel to the long-simmering divisions between backers of the Utah Republican Party’s delegate system and those who support a signature-gathering option for primary ballot access.

The state party had previously refused to provide support to signature-gathering candidates, sending out a mailer that listed only those who had been embraced by convention delegates. But in a prepared statement following the primary, Utah Republican Party chairman Robert Axson said the organization would accept the will of voters and work to help elect those who earned the GOP nomination.

“One thing is clear: the Utah GOP has fantastic Utahns representing us,” Axson said. “As a party, we fully commit to supporting them in their journey to victory on November 5th.”

In the state’s other marquee races, Congressman John Curtis won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Mitt Romney, state Sen. Mike Kennedy won the nomination for Curtis’ current seat in the 3rd Congressional District, incumbent Congresswoman Celeste Maloy appeared to narrowly secure her renomination in the 2nd District and former state Republican Party chairman Derek Brown held a plurality lead for the nomination for state attorney general, an office that has been plagued with scandal for the last decade under current AG Sean Reyes and his two predecessors, John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff.

Results from the 2024 primary election will be finalized on July 22, following a statewide canvas of votes, and the Republican nominees for statewide and federal races are heavily favored to win in November given the state’s longstanding voter demographics.

Changing of the Guard
Several Salt Lake County incumbents will be involuntarily retired from office after failing to secure the support of primary voters. In the Utah House, seven-term Democratic Rep. Joel Briscoe will cede his party’s nomination to Grant Miller, who won 49% of the vote in a three-way race. And Draper Republican Rep. Jeff Stenquist, one of the most vocal proponents of the controversial Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola, was routed by Cal Roberts in a roughly 70-30 defeat.

In a video conceding the election, Briscoe noted that there is no Republican candidate running for his seat and offered his congratulations and support to Miller, whose election in November is largely a formality.

“Even though I will be out of the Legislature come January, I will not stop in my efforts to make Utah’s air cleaner, the water cleaner, to preserve Utah’s public lands,” Briscoe said. “I ask you to commit with me to defending democracy in America and doing everything we can to make Utah a safe place for all.”

First-term Salt Lake City School Board member Jenny Sika will not retain her seat after finishing third in the nonpartisan primary with 28% of the vote behind challengers Turner Bitton and Charlotte Fife-Jepperson, who were fairly evenly matched with 35% and 37%, respectively, a difference of less than 50 votes. The two challengers will advance to November’s general election.

In the three-way race to replace retiring SLC School Board member Kristi Swett, Amanda Longwell held a commanding lead with nearly 60% of the vote, while it appeared Richard Whitney would advance to the November ballot with 23% and Michael Allen McBride would be eliminated with 18%, though updated vote counts could presumably see those candidates switch positions before the canvas is finalized.

State School Board member Natalie Cline, of Bluffdale, had already been eliminated from contention for her seat after failing to win delegate support at convention and declining to gather signatures to maintain ballot access. Cline was a constant source of controversy during her single term on the state board, frequently criticizing LGBTQ inclusion and other efforts around diversity and equity, and her convention loss was broadly attributed to an incident in which Cline targeted a high school athlete online, falsely implying the student was transgender and leading to widespread condemnation and unprecedented sanctions from her board colleagues and the Utah Legislature.

County Lines
Voters in Salt Lake County will elect four members of the County Council this year, including one at-large seat. The primary winners for that countywide race appear to be settled, with current South Salt Lake City councilmember Natalie Pinkney winning 69% in the Democratic primary and venture capitalist Rachelle Morris winning 58% of the Republican primary vote.

In County Council district 2—the only other Council seat with a primary election—current West Valley Republican Sen. Daniel Thatcher held a razor-thin lead of just 39 votes, as of press time, over Carlos Moreno.

Asked for comment, Thatcher said only that he was “cautiously optimistic” while waiting for updated vote returns.

Tuesday’s election also included a primary race for County Surveyor, which is an open seat as incumbent Surveyor Reid Demman is not seeking reelection to another term. According to the unofficial vote results, Bradley Park has secured the Republican nomination with 56% of the vote and will advance to a November face off with Kent Setterberg, the Democratic candidate.

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About The Author

Benjamin Wood

Benjamin Wood

Bio:
Lifelong Utahn Benjamin Wood has worn the mantle of City Weekly's news editor since 2021. He studied journalism at Utah State University and previously wrote for The Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News and Entertainment Weekly

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