Evan McMullin calls on ‘discouraged’ Republicans to help beat Mike Lee in November

The Salt Lake Tribune will update this story with breaking news and the latest Utah election results.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Mike Lee makes a few comments early in the evening, before the election returns, at his election party at Awaken Event Center, onTuesday, June 28, 2022.

Find live primary election results here.

U.S. Senate race

Sen. Mike Lee: 62%

Becky Edwards: 30%

Ally Isom: 8%

Utah’s 1st Congressional District

Rep. Blake Moore: 59%

Andrew Badger: 27%

Tina Cannon: 14%

Utah’s 2nd Congressional District

Rep. Chris Stewart: 73%

Erin Rider: 27%

Utah’s 3rd Congressional District

Rep. John Curtis: 71%

Chris Herrod: 29%

Utah’s 4th Congressional District

Rep. Burgess Owens: 62%

Jake Hunsaker: 38%

Live results as of 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday. Click here for more results.

Evan McMullin calls on ‘discouraged’ Republicans to help beat Mike Lee in November

Not long after Sen. Mike Lee vanquished his two Republican rivals, his main opponent in November, Evan McMullin, sought to unify Utah voters.

“Tonight, I’m extending an invitation to all voters who are discouraged, frustrated, and exhausted by Lee’s divisive and ineffective politics,” McMullin said in a statement. “Utah can do better. More than a third of Republicans are ready for change.”

Lee was sitting at 61% of the vote Tuesday night, to 30% for Becky Edwards and 8% for Ally Isom.

“Despite emerging from the primary, this is no victory for a 12-year incumbent. His support is weak. The truth is, a majority of Utahns know Senator Lee is failing us. He cannot be trusted to do the right thing by the people of Utah, and he’s a leading cause for the partisan dysfunction in Washington.”

“If Utahns unite on common ground, we can send Lee home in November,” he said.

Utah Reps. Chris Stewart and Burgess Owens win primary elections

Utah’s Republican senator and four members of Utah’s congressional delegation had challengers — and all five of them have survived.

Shortly before 9 p.m. on Tuesday evening, The Associated Press declared Reps. Chris Stewart and Burgess Owens the winners in their respective districts, after having earlier named Reps. Blake Moore and John Curtis the victors of their primary races.

Rural counties reporting Tuesday night drove Stewart’s lead over challenger Erin Rider up to 72% to 28%, while Owens, with 60%, was holding off challenger Jake Hunsaker, 40%.

— Columnist Robert Gehrke

Utah Reps. Blake Moore and John Curtis survive GOP challenges

For Utah Rep. John Curtis it was deja vú — again. It was his third primary win over Herrod, who has challenged the incumbent congressman from the right. Herrod beat Curtis at the Republican convention, 55-45, but Curtis — who did not gather signatures — managed enough delegate support to advance to the primary where it appears he will torch Herrod.

In early returns Tuesday, Curtis was up 72% to 28%.

Moore, likewise, was facing two conservative challengers — Andrew Badger and Tina Cannon. In the early returns, Moore had 60% of the vote, while Badger lagged badly with 25% and 15% for Cannon.

The Associated Press called the election victories for Moore and Curtis.

— Columnist Robert Gehrke

Sen. Mike Lee wins primary election in Utah

Sen. Mike Lee is projected to win in Tuesday night’s Utah primary election after jumping out to an early lead over challengers Becky Edwards and Ally Isom.

The Associated Press called the race for Lee shortly after polls closed in Utah.

In early returns, Lee had 57% compared to 34% for Edwards and 8% for Isom. Notably, the bulk of the votes were coming from areas where Edwards was expected to do well — Davis and Salt Lake counties.

In Salt Lake County, Edwards and Isom combined for nearly as many votes as Lee received.

Lee will face independent candidate Evan McMullin in November’s general election.

— Columnist Robert Gehrke

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Republican U.S. Senate candidate Becky Edwards poses for a photo at her primary election night party in Salt Lake City's Sugar House Park on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. From left are Yándary Chatwin, Clyde Chatwin, and Edwards.

Jeff Gray takes early lead in Utah County attorney race

In the early results in the wild Utah County Attorney race, incumbent David Leavitt has found himself in a huge hole, trailing challenger Jeff Gray by more than a two-to-one margin.

In the early tally, Gray had 72% of the vote to 28% for Leavitt.

Voter turnout is sluggish in Utah’s 2022 primary election — especially for Democrats

Turnout in Tuesday’s primary election remains fairly sluggish, with about one out of every five active voters casting ballots so far, according to preliminary figures.

With about four hours until polls close, a little over 341,000 ballots had been cast statewide out of roughly 1.7 million active registered voters.

As is often the case with primaries, the turnout is driven largely by the contests on the ballot. On the Republican side — where U.S. Sen. Mike Lee and all four members of the congressional delegation are facing primaries — turnout is considerably higher, with about 35% of registered Republicans having cast their votes. Democrats have fewer races to vote in and can’t vote in the Republican primary. As a result, less than 10% of Democrats have voted in the primary election.

To put the 20% overall turnout so far into a little context, in 2020 Utah saw the highest turnout for a primary in decades, as 38% of eligible voters voted in the election. That race was headlined by a highly competitive gubernatorial primary featuring Spencer Cox, Jon Huntsman Jr., Greg Hughes and Thomas Wright.

In 2018, when Mitt Romney ran against Michael Kennedy in a high-profile U.S. Senate race, a little over a third of active voters turned out. But those marks were exceptionally high for primary election turnout in recent years, with the average hovering around 20% and sometimes much lower. But, again, there were’t as many big races on the ballot as there is this year.

— Robert Gehrke and Blake Apgar

Robert Gehrke: Same-day voter registration meant I could vote with my 18-year-old son

One of the coolest changes to election law Utah has enacted in the last several years is same-day voter registration.

The state started same-day registration as a three-year pilot program in 2014. In 2018, then-Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck sponsored another bill to make it permanent, which was then folded into a larger election reform bill that year.

Since then, a Utahn who hasn’t registered can show up at their polling place, fill out a registration form, show the required identification and cast a provisional ballot.

It’s pretty simple.

I know this because I realized last week that my son, who turned 18 last month, hadn’t registered to vote. So this afternoon, I made him and his friend take a break from working on his buddy’s car and dragged them down to the polling place.

The hardest part was finding the right two forms of identification that they needed.

You can find acceptable forms of ID at this link: https://slco.org/clerk/elections/voting-in-person/valid-identification-for-salt-lake-county-elections/

From start to finish, it took about 10-15 minutes. I didn’t tell my kid who to vote for, but he ended up getting all the answers right. And best of all, from his perspective, he got his first “I Voted” sticker.

— Columnist Robert Gehrke

Salt Lake library drop box reopens

The drop box at the Salt Lake City Public Library, located at 420 South 200 East, has reopened for voters to cast their mail-in ballots. The box will be available for drive-up traffic until voting closes at 8 p.m., according to the Salt Lake County clerk’s website.

— Daedan Olander

Salt Lake election worker ‘pleasantly surprised’ by voter turnout for primary elections

Tribune reporter Anastasia Hufham visited several voting centers in Salt Lake County on Tuesday morning to talk to voters and election workers about the primary elections. Election workers expressed confidence in the county’s voting systems while voters lauded the ease and speed of the in-person voting process.

Marisela Garcia, a 22-year-old student born and raised in Salt Lake City, said she’s worked elections with her mother since she turned 18. They arrived at the Salt Lake County Government Center at 6 a.m. on Tuesday to begin working and said they likely wouldn’t leave until late in the evening.

Garcia said it’s good to be involved with the voting process and that it is important for voters to research candidates before casting their ballots.

“You’ve got your people who don’t like to throw stuff in the mail, you’ve got people that are all for it,” Garcia told The Salt Lake Tribune of casting ballots in Utah. “Other elections have been more crazy, but the mail-in ballots definitely help, and we have a box here so people can just drive up.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Abigail Bankhead cast her ballot at Trolly Square in Salt Lake City during primary Election Day on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

At Trolley Square, election worker Krista Bowers said she was “pleasantly surprised” by the number of people who were casting their ballots Tuesday morning — particularly younger voters.

“From the minute we opened, it’s been pretty steady,” she said.

Some voters, Bowers said, had grumbled about election fraud.

“I’ve had a couple of people that I’ve processed today who have gone on about how things are rigged and it’s not a fair election, but for the most part we get them out fast,” Bowers continued.

The Trolley Square election workers helped voters with new voting machines, a change from previous elections.

Abigail Bankhead, a 21-year-old voter at Trolley Square, found the process quick and straightforward. Bankhead said that she normally uses a mail-in ballot, but had decided to formally cast her vote for Becky Edwards in person on Tuesday.

“No one pays attention to these smaller elections,” she told the Tribune. “Everyone just seems to care about the presidential election. But if you pay attention and you spend five minutes researching, you can make a big difference for the senators that are going to represent Utah for the next six years. It’s really fast, it’s really easy and it makes a difference because not that many people vote in this election.”

Heather Bush, a lifelong Salt Lake City resident, also voted in person for Becky Edwards.

Bush said she’d been an unaffiliated voter, but registered as Republican in order to vote against Sen. Mike Lee.

“There’s so many options,” she said. “You can vote early, you can vote by mail, you can vote in person. The county makes it super easy.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Corey Hankey drops his ballot into the ballot box at the Salt Lake County Government Center during primary Election Day on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

Bush wasn’t the only typically unaffiliated voter on Tuesday. Kate Nichols, a rising junior at the University of Utah, said that she forgot she was unaffiliated until yesterday when she received a text encouraging her to vote for Becky Edwards.

“It was a lot easier than I thought, which is awesome, and it took me less than five minutes from start to end,” Nichols said. “The hardest part was finding the right building.”

At West Valley City Hall, voter Josh Soto said he cast his ballot for one simple reason.

“If you have the privilege to vote, vote,” he said.

— Anastasia Hufham

Robert Gehrke: Here’s what I’m watching for during Utah’s primary elections

Good morning! Here are five topics I’ll be keeping an eye on during today’s primary elections in Utah.

1. How much of the Republican vote will Mike Lee get in the primary?

It appears that Sen. Mike Lee’s re-election victory is not seriously in question.

While Becky Edwards and Ally Isom offered spirited opposition and credible choices for anti-Lee voters, with both candidates in the race ended up competing for the same voters and, perhaps more importantly, the same fundraising dollars. As a result, neither ever really got traction to seriously threaten Lee.

So the question now becomes: How much of the Republican base will be backing the incumbent senator?

The reason it matters is that Lee will move on to face independent candidate Evan McMullin, who is poised to give Lee the most serious challenge since his 2-point win in the Republican primary in 2010. A Deseret News-Hinckley Institute poll showed McMullin within either 4 or 6 points of Lee. The Republican’s campaign released an internal poll to right-wing Breitbart News that showed Lee up 10 points (but, as always, take internal campaign polls with a grain of salt).

McMullin’s recipe hinges on getting most of the independent voters, the vast majority of Democrats (who chose not to nominate a candidate and instead back McMullin) and a considerable slice of the GOP electorate.

The percentage of Republican voters who opt not to vote for Lee in the primary will tell us how big McMullin’s hunting ground is. If Lee comes in under 60%, that would be great news for Team McMullin. But if 70% or more of GOP voters ballot for Lee, the news won’t be as good for the independent.

I suspect the figure will be somewhere in between, maybe, 63%. But it will provide a solid indicator for how this Senate race will unfold over the next few months.

2. How detached are Republican delegates from actual Republican voters?

This has been a recurring theme in Utah. If the goal of the caucus-convention nominating system is to produce nominees that reflect the views of the 877,159 registered Republicans, it doesn’t have a very good track record.

In the past, the convention picked Chris Herrod over John Curtis, who voters overwhelmingly preferred in the primary. The same was true when convention-goers picked Michael Kennedy but voters elected Mitt Romney. And again when Gary Herbert had to beat Jonathan Johnson in the primary.

Watch for the same this time.

At the convention, Herrod once again beat Curtis, 55-45. Expect Curtis to once again flip the script and beat Herrod.

But there are others to watch. Rep. Chris Stewart blew out Erin Rider at the convention, 84-16. Can he repeat that margin with the Republican electorate? I’m betting not.

And challenger Andrew Badger beat Rep. Blake Moore 59-41 at the convention. The only polling in the race shows Moore will likely win easily.

There are a handful of state legislative races to watch in Davis and Weber counties, too.

We can explain it two ways. One is the overwhelming advantages in name recognition and fundraising that the incumbent officeholders always enjoy. But that wouldn’t really explain the Stewart or the Lee races if the incumbents underperform their convention numbers (Lee got 71% at the convention).

The likelier explanation is that the convention delegates remain out of touch with the views and preferences of mainstream GOP voters. If the disconnect continues, or even grows, candidates will stop participating in the convention system in favor of signature-gathering and the conventions will become irrelevant.

3. “OMG! All the fraudz!”

Ever since Donald Trump campaigned to undermine confidence in our electoral process, his followers see fraud everywhere they look.

We’ve already seen state Rep. Phil Lyman, a speaker at several of the conspiracy conference and player in the fraud grift, promote a spurious claim that machines in Wasatch County were programmed to steal votes from Lee and give them to Edwards.

Who is doing it and how? Doesn’t matter. It’s fraud.

The county has since programmed the machines to use a larger font and a stylus to prevent any ballot confusion.

That’s usually how these things go. Elections are complex and never go without some hiccups, and when they happen these people immediately assume its some elaborate plot because, I suppose, reality is boring.

The tin-foil hat folks are advising each other that they should not even use the machines and instead demand to cast a provisional paper ballot.

No matter how rigorous we make our election security, it will never be enough. These geniuses will always find a conspiracy.

“I’m pretty good at seeing through BS,” Lyman told my colleague Bryan Schott recently.

Fortunately, so are we.

4. How will incumbent Democrats fare?

Two Democratic incumbent state senators — Gene Davis and Derek Kitchen — could be in real trouble Tuesday.

Kitchen is in a rematch of his primary battle four years ago with Dr. Jennifer Plumb, who contends Kitchen hasn’t delivered during his time in the Utah Senate. Plumb is generally seen as a more moderate candidate in the state’s most liberal district. Kitchen won four years ago by about 450 votes. I suspect this time it will be even closer.

Davis has been in the Legislature since Utah became a state. Not really, but he was first elected to the Utah House in 1986. His opponent, environmental advocate and first-time candidate Nate Blouin, has lined up endorsements from a number of prominent Democratic groups and trounced Davis at the Salt Lake County Democratic Convention.

5. The nuttiest race in Utah history

That is, of course, the campaign for Utah County attorney. This is a race where the incumbent, David Leavitt, held a news conference and — completely unprovoked — volunteered the fact that he is not a cannibal, which of course prompted everyone to ask: “Wait, what?”

Apart from the bizarre news conference, there’s massive tension between Leavitt, an advocate for justice reform, and Utah County law enforcement, particularly Sheriff Mike Smith. Leavitt’s challenger, attorney Jeff Gray, has the support of a PAC backed by the Utah Sheriffs Association targeting Leavitt.

So the big questions here are pretty simple: Do Utah County voters have an appetite for rethinking its justice system?

— Columnist Robert Gehrke

Correction: June 28, 1:15 p.m. • The above entry has been updated to remove a reference to this being Davis’ last term if he wins.

It’s primary election day in Utah!

This year’s slate of primaries includes five members of Utah’s congressional delegation, along with 23 state Legislature races.

Sen. Mike Lee is facing Republican challengers Becky Edwards and Ally Isom.

All four Utah congressmen face primary challengers: Rep. Blake Moore faces Andrew Badger and Tina Cannon in the 1st Congressional District; Rep. Chris Stewart faces Erin Rider in the 2nd; Rep. John Curtis is running against Chris Herrod in the 3rd; and Rep. Burgess Owens is being challenged by Jake Hunsaker in the 4th.

Utah’s congressional districts were redrawn this past year during the decennial restricting process.

Many voters have already mailed in their ballots or voted early. And although it’s too late for Utahns to mail their ballots, voters can drop them off or vote at voting centers on Tuesday. Prospective voters can register to vote at their polling place, which can be found at https://votesearch.utah.gov.

In the Beehive State, Republican primaries are closed, meaning voters have to be registered party members to vote in the GOP primary. Democratic primaries, on the other hand, are only semi-closed, allowing both party members and unaffiliated voters to participate.

Unaffiliated voters can still register with a party on election day. However, the deadline to switch affiliation from one party to another has already passed as a result of a law enacted by the Legislature last year.

Check out the rest of The Tribune’s coverage of the state’s major primary races and issues at sltrib.com/politics.

— Daedan Olander

Editor’s note • The Salt Lake Tribune is providing free access to 2022 Utah primary election result stories. Sign up for our The Rundown newsletter sent to your inbox every morning. To support journalism like this, please donate or become a subscriber.