Mike Lee gets rock star reception at Utah Republican Convention as national incumbents all advance

Daniel Thatcher, who voted against the transgender sports ban, won his party’s nomination despite a challenge from the right.

The Utah Republican Convention hit some technical snags with the electronic voting system on Saturday, but there was still plenty of time for GOP delegates to advance all the party’s national seat-holders to their respective primaries in June.

The day’s biggest event was the vote for Sen. Mike Lee’s seat. Utah’s hybrid nomination system mostly took the decision out of the hands of delegates, as Lee, Becky Edwards and Ally Isom each gathered the required 28,000 signatures to secure a primary spot. Lee cruised to an easy victory anyway, grabbing three-quarters of the delegate vote.

The winner of that primary will face independent Evan McMullin in the general election after Democrats backed McMullin over their own party member Kael Weston on Saturday.

Lee is the closest thing to a rock star among the Utah Republican base. Delegates gave him a standing ovation as he took and exited the stage for his speech.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Volunteers pass out t-shirts for U.S. Sen. Mike Lee at the Utah Republican Party nominating convention, Saturday, April 23, 2022 in Sandy.

“A gathering like this is one of the greatest forces for good that has ever existed,” Lee told the nearly 3,700 delegates on hand. “We show up and we honor the Constitution of the United States.”

Lee has been enduring criticism this week after text messages showed the senator supporting then-President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

During her speech, Becky Edwards drew the crowd’s wrath when she took a shot at Lee.

“Our senior senator has not done a good job living up to his campaign promises,” Edwards said to a chorus of boos.

Lee, Edwards and Isom now face off in the June primary.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Delegates attend the Utah Republican Party nominating convention, Saturday, April 23, 2022 in Sandy.

Curtis squeaks into the primary

Rep. John Curtis dodged a bullet on Saturday, holding on to advance to a primary election against perennial candidate Chris Herrod. Curtis did not gather signatures to guarantee a spot in the primary as he had in his three previous campaigns, which made him vulnerable to being knocked out of the race by delegates.

Herrod got 54% support to Curtis’ 45% to set up a primary fight.

Herrod was one of five candidates challenging Curtis from his political right.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jason Preston, left, a candidate for the 3rd Congressional District, and Republican consultant Roger Stone at the Utah Republican Party nominating convention, Saturday, April 23, 2022 in Sandy.

Longtime GOP consultant Roger Stone could not help Jason Preston’s campaign as he was eliminated from the race in the first round of voting along with Tim Aalders and Lyman Wight.

As expected, Rep. Chris Stewart cruised to an easy convention win on Saturday, capturing more than 80% of the delegate vote. His opponent, Erin Rider, took the signature route to secure a spot in the June primary election. In his five previous races, Stewart wrapped up the nomination at the convention to avoid a primary.

Andrew Badger tops Rep. Blake Moore but both move on

It took three rounds of debates and votes to ultimately decide which candidates would progress to the primary race for Utah’s 1st Congressional District. And in the end, two candidates received the delegate nod Saturday: Andrew Badger and incumbent Rep. Blake Moore.

Badger secured about 59% of the final vote, while the incumbent took nearly 41%. Badger was less than a percentage point away from becoming the delegates’ sole pick.

Also joining them in the primary race will be Tina Cannon, who was eliminated in the second round of voting but received enough signatures before Saturday’s convention to advance.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tina Cannon, candidate for the 1st Congressional District, speaks with delegates at the Utah Republican Party nominating convention, Saturday, April 23, 2022 in Sandy.

Badger fired up the crowd with his trio of addresses, decrying numerous decisions by the Biden administration and encouraging Republicans to fight back. He said he was running on a platform of three issues: the ending of mandates, election security and parental rights in education.

”The future of the GOP is a new generation of conservative warriors who are going to fight for America first,” he said.

Moore’s speeches revolved primarily around the progress he made during his first stint in Congress.

“Today, you have the opportunity to choose substance over artistry,” he told the roughly 4,000 delegates in attendance. “Talk is cheap but actual work is harder. I’ve fought back against every angle of Biden and Pelosi’s destructive agenda while still finding ways to deliver for Utah.”

He also finished to cheers, saying, “Put me back in the majority, and I’ll go finish what I started.”

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) U.S. Rep. Blake Moore speaks with delegates at the Utah Republican Party nominating convention, Saturday, April 23, 2022 in Sandy.

Owens says he will ‘never allow biological men to compete against our women’

Rep. Burgess Owens joined all Washington incumbents in advancing to their respective primaries on Saturday in Utah’s 4th Congressional District.

And he did it convincingly, receiving more than 68% of the vote and beating his only Republican opponent at the convention, Jake Hunsaker. However, Hunsaker has collected enough signatures to advance to the primary regardless.

Owens was cheered enthusiastically by the remaining delegates as he delivered his address, which focused on the principles he stands for and those he does not.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) U.S. Rep. Burgess Owens speaks with delegates at the Utah Republican Party nominating convention, Saturday, April 23, 2022 in Sandy.

He specifically advocated “a level playing field which will never allow biological men to compete against our women.”

”We don’t do that,” he said to cheers.

Toward the end of his speech, he called Utah “the true light of our nation.”

Daniel Thatcher, who voted against HB11, advances

Incumbent Daniel Thatcher was able to get enough support from delegates to win the GOP nomination outright over three other challengers. His bid for another term was thought to be in danger when he was one of two Republicans in the Senate to vote against overriding Gov. Spencer Cox’s veto of HB11, a bill banning transgender athletes from girls’ athletics.

Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers and Senate Majority Whip Ann Millner are both headed to June primaries as they could not to reach the 60% threshold to win outright.

Assistant Senate Majority Whip Kirk Cullimore avoided a primary, capturing 81% of the delegate vote. Incumbent Senators Scott Sandall and Ronald Winterton easily won their nominations outright.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Delegates arrive for the Utah Republican Party nominating convention, Saturday, April 23, 2022 in Sandy.

Rep. Kera Birkeland, the author of HB11, won the nod from delegates on Saturday in HD4, capturing 70% of the vote. That total eliminates former state Rep. Logan Wilde from the race. He was attempting to recapture the seat he left to take a position in former Gov. Gary Herbert’s administration. Birkeland still faces a June primary as Raelene Blocker submitted signatures.

Rep. Steve Waldrip unexpectedly dropped his reelection bid this week, throwing the HD8 race into turmoil. He had secured enough signatures to qualify for the primary ballot. His two opponents, Kimberly Cozzens and Jason Kyle, split the vote on Saturday and head to the primary.

Incumbent Kelly Miles and challenger Katy Hall had both moved to the primary election through signatures, so Saturday’s vote was irrelevant. Miles won the majority of delegate support.

In HD29, Bridger Bolinder won nearly 90% of the delegate vote but still faces a primary against Mark Huntsman, who gathered signatures.

Incumbent Christine Watkins is facing a primary election against Tom Hansen in SD67.

Tribune reporter Daedan Olander contributed to this story.