Drama grows as Jen Plumb’s edge over Sen. Derek Kitchen shrinks

Battle for Utah’s most liberal Senate seat goes down to the wire.

(The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Derek Kitchen, left, trailed challenger Jennifer Plumb by 51 votes Friday in their chase for the Democratic nomination for Utah's Senate District 9.

Challenger Jen Plumb’s lead over state Sen. Derek Kitchen shrank Friday after she narrowly surpassed the incumbent a day earlier in the gripping Democratic primary tug of war for Senate District 9.

Clusters of votes dumped by Salt Lake County election officials late Friday morning showed Plumb leading Kitchen by 51 votes, down from the 63-vote edge she held Thursday.

Plumb said Friday that the thin margin reflects the value of every vote and the importance of connecting with constituents on the campaign trail.

“To say it’s anxiety-provoking would be an understatement,” she said. “But it does make you feel like, as someone who comes in as the nonincumbent, that you did the right things.”

Kitchen did not respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon.

Plumb’s comeback followed an election night that ended with Kitchen holding a 114-vote advantage in a contest that will likely determine who represents Utah’s most liberal Senate district on Capitol Hill for the next four years. The winner will face write-in candidate Vance Hansen in November.

The political slugfest between Plumb and Kitchen is a rematch of the 2018 Democratic runoff for what was then Senate District 2. Plumb, a pediatric emergency department doctor, lost that race by 550 votes.

Kitchen, a small-business owner who coasted to a general election victory after securing the nomination that year, is coming off a legislative session that saw him ousted from a committee assignment by his own party’s leadership.

He campaigned for a chance at a second term by telling voters he better represents them because he is the only millennial in the Senate and only openly queer lawmaker on Utah’s Capitol Hill.

Plumb, meanwhile, contended she would be a more effective senator because she has experience outside of the Legislature shepherding into law liberal causes like naloxone access and syringe exchanges.

“If I am lucky enough and fortunate enough to come out on top,” Plumb said, “I will be really honored and really humbled to have been chosen, and I will dive in with lots of work to do.”

The next vote results could be released as soon as Tuesday. Final tallies will be certified July 12.