Another big batch of ballot results posted Friday did little to change Provo Mayor John Curtis’ already lofty lead in the Republican primary to replace retired Rep. Jason Chaffetz. His claim on the party’s nomination now appears incontestable.
The Associated Press had called the race for Curtis on Tuesday night. But the second-place finisher, former state lawmaker Chris Herrod, had held out hope that the outstanding mail-in ballots could tip the scales in his favor.
He conceded Friday when they did not.
“It’s John’s time in the limelight,” Herrod said. “We’ll see if there’s a time for me sometime again.”
Herrod hoped Republicans who waited until the last minute to vote would have been more likely to pick him, the more conservative of the three candidates. The latest vote count shows that didn’t happen; Herrod performed about the same as he did on primary election day.
An additional 18,325 ballots were tallied Friday from Utah County — which includes about 60 percent of the registered Republicans in the 3rd Congressional District. Afterward, Curtis kept a roughly 11 percentage point lead over Herrod in the three-way runoff in which businessman and first-time candidate Tanner Ainge came in third.
Curtis went from about 5,000 votes ahead to forging a more than 7,500-vote margin over Herrod, locking in 43 percent of the vote. Ainge fell slightly more behind, dropping from 27 percent to 24.5 percent. He bowed out before 9 p.m. Tuesday.
“I’m glad that our district will have a good leader and a good person like John Curtis,” Ainge said, noting that he’ll return to the private sector.
In a phone call with Curtis on Friday, Herrod thanked the mayor and apologized for any delays. He never wanted to be a “sore loser,” Herrod has said, but wanted to be sure every vote counted.
“I thought he ran a great campaign,” Herrod said. “John was very gracious, and I appreciate him giving me the time to wait for these Utah County numbers.”
The Republican Party, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and President Donald Trump have already congratulated Curtis on the win.
Curtis, mayor of the third largest city in the state (one of the most conservative in the nation), did not vote for Trump in 2016, unlike Herrod and Ainge. He instead wrote in a “good friend’s name.” He also suffered weeks of hounding by his competitors — and attack ads launched by super PACs that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars — for supposedly being too moderate and for being a registered Democrat some 20 years ago.
In the reliably red district, where registered Republican voters outnumber registered Democrats nearly 6-to-1, Curtis is a heavy favorite to win the Nov. 7 general election. He faces Democrat Kathie Allen, who’s amassed nearly $700,000, and the new United Utah Party’s Jim Bennett, son of the late three-term Sen. Bob Bennett, as well as a handful of independent and third-party candidates.
The winner will serve the final year of Chaffetz’s term after the congressman stepped down on June 30 and has since joined Fox News as a contributor. His early departure turned what would have been a municipal primary only into a congressional special election — the first in Utah in 90 years.
The state will certify all results in the congressional primary Aug. 31.
In the meantime, Curtis plans to update his website and prepare for November by “uniting not only Republicans in the district but all residents.”
“The message is the same as it was for our pioneer ancestors: Using principles of industry, thrift, hard work and personal responsibility, we can tackle all of our country’s difficult problems and get things done.”