Blake Moore will be a new Utah face in Congress as Reps. Chris Stewart, John Curtis also win big

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah 1st District candidate Blake Moore speaks at the Utah Association of Realtors office where GOP candidates gathered in Sandy, on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Moore was elected to Congress, defeating Democratic candidate Darren Parry.

Republican Blake Moore — who until this year was a little-known former foreign service officer and a management consultant — on Tuesday became the 1st District’s new congressman, the first there in 18 years.

Elsewhere, Republican Reps. Chris Stewart and John Curtis cruised toward reelection, Stewart to a fifth term in the 2nd District and Curtis to another term in the 3rd Congressional District.

In unofficial returns as of 12:15 a.m. on Wednesday, Moore topped Democrat Darren Parry by a 68% to 32% margin, or 167,577 votes to 79,569; Stewart outpaced Democrat Kael Weston 61% to 35%, or 166,006 to 94,229; and Curtis surpassed Democrat Devin Thorpe 69% to 27%, or 180,019 to 72,924.

• 1st District. Moore is replacing nine-term GOP Rep. Rob Bishop, who is retiring. Earlier this year, Moore was a political unknown when he jumped late into the race for Utah’s only open seat. The crowded field of a dozen candidates included well-known mayors, county officials and a former state agriculture commissioner.

How did Moore overcome them all?

“I was a somebody who looked a little different” and brought a new perspective, said the 40-year-old Moore. When he entered late, “it created a little bit of buzz. And we acted like an underdog and worked really hard."

He offered something different by talking about his experience as a foreign service officer in Asia and as a management adviser at the Cicero consulting firm to businesses ranging from trash collection to health care, education and molecular diagnostics. Moore said people were looking for that type of perspective amid a global crisis and an economic meltdown.

Moore said his priority now is to help Congress and the country come together to fight COVID-19, and figure out what kind of economic stimulus is needed. His local priorities are to protect Hill Air Force Base, aid rural job development, and help Utah agriculture be profitable.

Moore had been criticized for not living in the 1st District. He lives on Salt Lake City’s east bench, about 15 miles from the district’s nearest border. The U.S. Constitution does not require members of Congress to live in their district, only in the same state. Rep. Ben McAdams also lives outside his 4th District, and former Utah Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Jim Matheson lived outside of theirs.

Moore says he has a good feel for the district because he was reared in Ogden. He has said that redistricting next year may draw him into his district; if not, he will look at moving there.

Moore’s assertions about being a foreign service officer in Asia have been difficult to verify. An early resume he posted online said he was a foreign service agent for one year in Washington, D.C., but listed work for years in Asia for a company that he formed himself.

He later said he was doing secretive government work that required him to be vague on his resume. The State Department and the CIA would neither confirm nor deny Moore’s assertions.

Moore’s campaign was also helped as his Democratic rival, Parry, somewhat self-destructed. His ex-wife said Parry lied about paying required child support for their seven children. Also, a daughter publicly said he abandoned their family after having several affairs.

The district has not had a Democratic representative since 1980.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart speaks at the Utah Association of Realtors office where GOP candidates gathered in Sandy on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Stewart retained his 2nd District seat in Congress.

• 2nd District. Stewart had an easy time against a relatively unknown Democratic opponent.

Weston attacked the congressman as an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump and a crusader against socialism. But Stewart said he was confident his constituents stood behind the president and predicted that the race would be a referendum on conservative values in general.

“I believe in the goodness of America. I believe in religious freedom. I believe in the sanctity of life. I mean, conservative principles,” Stewart said. “That’s the thing I’ll win or lose on.”

Aside from slamming Stewart’s unwavering support for Trump, Weston largely stayed away from divisive national politics and focused instead on local issues, such as nuclear testing and the U.S. Postal Service. The former State Department diplomat also spent significant time visiting conservative strongholds in rural parts of Utah, with an eye toward building relationships in areas that don’t often hear from Democrats.

Stewart, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot and author of spy novels, ran a largely low-key campaign and agreed to one debate with Weston during the contest, which also included a Libertarian candidate, J. Robert Latham.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) U.S. Rep. John Curtis speaks at the Utah Republican Party election event, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 in Sandy. Curtis was re-elected to Congress for the 3rd District.

• 3rd District. Curtis won his third House election in three years — because he was first elected in a special election when Chaffetz left office early.

“There’s some election fatigue — on my part and my constituents' part,” Curtis, a former Provo mayor, acknowledged.

But, he added, “I, with my team, have gone up and down the district getting to know the issues and working hard. The election is a validation that we are hearing and responding to their message, and they like our work.”

He said his top priority now is addressing COVID-19 and the related recession. “Clearly that dominates everything we do,” he said. Other top priorities, he said, include finding common ground between parties to address climate change and working on public lands.

“I certainly hope that the election brings some resolution to some of this long-standing divisiveness," Curtis said. "I know that in my quiet moments I’m reflecting on what I can do differently to bring unity that I think you’re always looking for.”

The Republican was able to outraise his Democratic challenger, Thorpe, by more than an 8-to-1 margin. It even allowed Curtis to reimburse himself $75,000 that he had loaned to his earlier campaigns.