Lt. Gov. Cox narrowly defeats Huntsman for GOP nod

According to initial primary ballot counts, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox scored a narrow victory over former governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr. to win the GOP nomination to replace outgoing Gov. Gary Herbert.

SALT LAKE CITY – Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has apparently captured the Republican nomination to replace outgoing Gov. Gary Herbert in GOP primary balloting on June 30.

With 69 percent of the state’s precincts reporting as of 3 a.m. on July 1, initial counts had Cox leading a field of three challengers with 37 percent of nearly 395,000 ballots cast.

Ballot totals for his political rivals were 34 percent for former governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr., 21 percent for former Utah House speaker Greg Hughes and 8 percent for former state GOP chair Thomas Wright.

On the road to the GOP nod, Cox weathered blistering criticism of his role as chair of the state’s COVID-19 task force and overcame a strong appeal by the Huntsman campaign to non-Republican voters.

After issuing initial pro forma denials, Huntsman’s campaign grudgingly acknowledged making a concerted effort to court both Democrats and independent voters. His staff encouraged those voters to register as Republicans in order to have a voice in the closed GOP primary, arguing that the primary balloting would in all likelihood decide who serves as Utah’s next governor.

State officials estimate that about 35,000 independents registered as Republicans in recent weeks and another 10,000 Democrats also crossed over to participate in the GOP primary. Recent polling by UtahPolicy.Com suggested that those temporary converts to the GOP would favor Huntsman over the front-running lieutenant governor by a 2-to-1 margin.

But Cox may have been assisted by a record turnout of primary voters. In 2016, when incumbent governor Herbert was forced to compete for the GOP nomination by hard right convention delegates, only about 246,000 ballots were cast. Turnout in the most recent primary balloting was up by 60 percent.

Along with his running mate, state Sen. Deidre Henderson of Spanish Fork, Cox will now face off against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Peterson of Salt Lake City and his running mate Karina Brown of Nibley in the general election in November.

See the June 2020 Primary Election results here.

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  • Blayne July 1, 2020 at 11:18 am Reply

    How did this guy win? He’s an idiot.

    • Sue Quentin July 3, 2020 at 3:45 am Reply

      He hasn’t won yet. This publication is pathetic.

  • jason.holmes July 1, 2020 at 4:23 pm Reply

    Sen. Deidre Henderson is from Spanish Fork, not Provo. I have an in-law that lives in the same area.

  • Tamara July 2, 2020 at 9:02 am Reply

    All of the votes have not been counted.

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