Jen Plumb builds her lead over Sen. Derek Kitchen, but it remains oh so tight

A recount looms as a real possibility in this legislative primary.

(The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Derek Kitchen, left, has been behind challenger Jennifer Plumb by 62 votes in the face for the Democratic nomination for Senate District 9.

In the roller-coaster ballot count for the Democratic nod in Utah Senate District 9, challenger Jen Plumb is now up by 62 votes over Sen. Derek Kitchen.

That’s 11 more than she had at the end of last week, but this ride has yet to come to a complete stop. The final tally won’t be certified until Tuesday.

In the latest unofficial results, released Thursday afternoon, Plumb had 4,375 votes, or 50.36%, to Kitchen’s 4,313 votes, or 49.64%.

Plumb, who is a physician, said Thursday evening she eagerly awaits the final vote tally Tuesday and doesn’t plan to declare victory or defeat before then.

“I’m a scientist,” Plumb said. “I believe in data and data integrity, so I’ll be awaiting that July 12 final (vote tally) but I’m, you know, feeling really optimistic about where we stand currently.”

A call and text message to Kitchen for comment was not returned as of Thursday evening.

Last Friday’s vote totals showed Plumb over the incumbent by 51 votes, down from the 63-vote edge she held the previous day.

Election night returns put Kitchen ahead by 114 votes.

Longtime Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said in a text message that Thursday’s dump of votes included provisional ballots, which had to be verified before they could be counted, and mail-in ballots that were received more recently but postmarked within the acceptable time frame.

She said additional votes most likely would not be added to the totals before Tuesday’s certification.

The race is a rematch of the Democratic primary in 2018 in which Kitchen defeated Plumb and later was elected to his first term in the Utah Senate.

Kitchen is a small-business owner, while Plumb is a pediatric emergency department doctor. Plumb is also the medical director for Utah Naloxone, a group that distributes the opioid overdose remedy drug throughout the state.

During the campaign, Kitchen touted his millennial status and his position as the state’s only openly queer lawmaker. During the 2022 legislative session, he was abruptly removed from the Senate Education Committee by Democratic leadership.

Depending on the primary’s final figures, the losing side may request a recount.

Utah code says that the vote totals for a winning and losing candidate must be within 0.25% of each other. The losing candidate must file a request for a recount within seven days of the vote canvass.

The Democratic victor in District 9 will face write-in candidate Vance Hansen in November.