The Utah Republican State Convention later this month will be a little anticlimactic after the top three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate secured a spot on the primary ballot by gathering signatures instead of delegate support. That also mutes the impact of GOP delegates on the state’s marquee race in November.
Former Utah state Rep. Becky Edwards officially crossed the 28,000 verified signature threshold on Monday afternoon, sending her to the primary. Incumbent Mike Lee and Ally Isom reached the signature finish line last week.
With Edwards and Isom taking the signature route to the primary ballot, Republican delegates are now mostly removed from the equation. Lee, widely seen as the favorite, cannot secure the nomination outright. Nor can Edwards or Isom be knocked out of the race by a delegate vote.
The only impact the approximately 4,000 delegates could make is to send one of the lesser-known candidates through to the primary. For that to happen, Evan Barlow, Loy Brunson, Jeremy Friedbaum or Laird Hamblin would need to secure at least 40% of delegate support.
Edwards and Isom’s decision to take the signature route is proving to be prescient amid signs of a hard shift to the political right by delegates elected last month at the GOP caucuses. In Davis County, longtime Republican Rep. Steve Handy was knocked out of his seat in the Legislature by delegates in favor of political newcomer Trevor Lee. GOP delegates also forced Sen. Jerry Stevenson, Rep. Ray Ward and Rep. Melissa Garff Ballard into a primary against candidates running to their political right.
This is Lee’s first primary since 2010, when he defeated Tim Bridgewater after incumbent Bob Bennett was ousted in a surprise at the GOP convention. Bennett’s loss was the genesis of the hybrid nomination system Utah now uses, allowing candidates to compete at the convention, gather signatures or both. Lee did not face a Republican challenger in 2016.
The three-way contest will be the second statewide primary election featuring multiple candidates who qualified for the ballot via signature gathering. In the 2020 GOP gubernatorial primary, Spencer Cox, Jon Huntsman and Thomas Wright all qualified via signatures. Greg Hughes was also on the primary ballot after securing enough support from delegates at the convention.
Lee’s reelection was endorsed by former President Donald Trump last week. Trump gave Lee his blessing while also attacking independent candidate Evan McMullin, who ran against Trump as an independent in 2016.