Rep. John Curtis again defeats Trump backer Chris Herrod for GOP nomination in Utah’s 3rd District

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Rep. John Curtis is all smiles after ending his conversation with Republican primary opponent Chris Herrod who conceded the race for the 3rd Congressional District seat at his election party June 26, 2018 at Riverview Park in Provo.

Provo • U.S. Rep. John Curtis coasted through the primary election, winning broad support from the staunchly Republican 3rd Congressional District in his challenge from a far-right opponent who said Utah’s newest congressman wasn’t conservative enough.

Challenger Chris Herrod had said Curtis didn’t follow the Republican Party’s platform. Herrod had tied his campaign to President Donald Trump and said 3rd District primary voters should support someone solidly in the Trump camp.

Curtis, meanwhile, had offered pointed campaign critiques of the president on immigration, foreign policy, trade and access to guns. His votes, however, have kept right down the party line.

Curtis learned he’d secured enough support on the first release of ballot results on Tuesday night to secure his place in the front seat to hold onto his spot in Congress another two years.

He claimed 75 percent of the largely by-mail vote to just 25 percent for Herrod. And Herrod had called to concede just minutes after the polls closed at 8 p.m.

He will face Democrat James Courage Singer, of West Valley City, in the Nov. 6 general election.

This is the second time Curtis beat Herrod. Last year, in the special-election race to replace former U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who left Congress for a job at Fox News, he emerged from a three-way primary, then handily defeated Democratic hopeful Kathie Allen.

Curtis, who resigned as mayor of Provo after winning his seat in Congress, has made a point of holding town halls when he’s not in Washington, D.C. He said that helped him learn what his constituents want.

“I view this as just an affirmation of the message, of what we’ve been able to accomplish, our views on issues, the constituent outreach,” Curtis said. “It’s clearly resonating.”

Curtis seemed more at ease than in his past two elections. His election night event at Riverview Park in Provo resembled more of a big family picnic as he and supporters sipped on flavored sodas and snacked on strawberries.

Curtis, who in the past has been secluded at his events while waiting for results, sat in front of a computer on a picnic table and hit refresh while waiting for any updates at 8 p.m. He was in a short-sleeve button-up shirt and mingled with friends and family before and after results began coming in.

Curtis may have been caught off guard when the call came in around 8:25 p.m. from Herrod. (Before the results, Curtis quipped that he couldn’t leave the computer and wait for the concession call to come in, “cause I don’t have two weeks.”)

Nevertheless, he and Herrod apparently agreed to work together to build the party after Herrod spent weeks telling voters Curtis wasn’t a true Republican.

“I agree,” Curtis told Herrod on the phone, “We’ve gotta work together for the good of the party.”

He hung up the phone, turned to his supporters and said, “OK, let’s do this.”

His phone starting ringing as he started what would be a short victory speech. It was Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader. Curtis threw his phone into the crowd toward a campaign member and continued his two-minute speech.

Then he took off his microphones and ran through the park field toward his car. He had another winner’s party to get to: Mitt Romney’s.