Jen Plumb overtakes Derek Kitchen in nail-biter Utah Senate race

Newcomer Nate Blouin declares victory over longtime Sen. Gene Davis.

(The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Derek Kitchen, left, and Jennifer Plumb, candidates for the Democratic nomination for Senate District 9. Plumb holds a razor-thin lead in the latest ballot count.

The razor-thin race in the Democratic primary for Utah’s most liberal state Senate seat flipped Thursday after Salt Lake County dropped in another batch of unofficial ballot returns.

Dr. Jen Plumb, who trailed incumbent Sen. Derek Kitchen by 114 votes on election night, now has a 63-vote lead.

“We are following closely and awaiting final numbers,” Plumb wrote in a text message.

Kitchen could not be reached for comment.

More results are expected to be released Friday as mail-in ballots postmarked before the deadline continue to arrive.

Meanwhile, first-time candidate Nate Blouin declared victory over longtime Sen. Gene Davis after running up a seemingly insurmountable lead in the Democratic chase for Senate District 13.

The showdown between Kitchen and Plumb is a rematch of the 2018 Democratic primary for what was then Senate District 2. In that race, Kitchen, a small-business owner, bested the pediatric emergency department doctor by 550 votes.

In the run-up to Tuesday’s election, Kitchen said he better represented District 9 because he is the only millennial in the Senate and only openly queer lawmaker in the Legislature.

Plumb said the district has not seen results from Kitchen, and that her experience shaping and advocating for legislation like naloxone access and syringe exchanges would make her a more effective senator than Kitchen.

The winner of Tuesday’s contest is likely to end up representing the district on Capitol Hill. At this point, only write-in candidate Vance Hansen is mounting a challenge to the Democratic victor in November.

While the primary for District 9 is far from being decided, the race for Senate District 13 appears all but certain to send Davis packing after a decadeslong career in the Legislature.

Blouin, who left his job as a renewable energy advocate to campaign for the seat, now leads Davis with nearly 76% of the vote.

The political newcomer said late Tuesday that he felt comfortable enough with his lead to declare victory. His margin has only widened since making those comments.

Blouin campaigned on addressing Utah’s poor air quality and affordable-housing challenges.

The Democratic nominee will face Republican Roger L. Stout in November.