Jen Plumb ousts Derek Kitchen with paper-thin margin in Democratic primary for Senate District 9

The pediatric emergency department doctor is well on her way to representing the progressive Utah Senate district.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Senate candidate Jen Plumb says a few words at arally to defend reproductive rights, sponsored by the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, at the Federal Building, on Wednesday, June 29, 2022. Plumb narrowly beat state Sen. Derek Kitchen in the Senate District 9 race after official voter tallies were published on Tuesday, July 12, 2022.

Challenger Jen Plumb is cruising toward representing Utah’s most liberal Senate district after eking out a win in the Democratic primary against incumbent state Sen. Derek Kitchen.

Plumb ousted Kitchen by only 61 votes, according to final election results certified Tuesday. Although her 4,383 to 4,322 win rests on a narrow margin, Plumb still garnered enough votes to stave off the possibility of a recount.

Plumb said Tuesday that she was embracing the gravity of the moment.

“We’ve got a lot of really important work to do,” she said. “I’m so excited, I’m so thrilled and I’m just so humbled, all together.”

She will go on to face unaffiliated write-in candidate Vance Hansen in November, a contest that will almost certainly end with her becoming the district’s next state senator.

Kitchen led Plumb on election night with 114 votes, but fell behind the pediatric emergency department doctor two days later as more ballots were tallied.

The race between Plumb and Kitchen for Senate District 9 was a rematch of the Democratic primary that ultimately led to Kitchen being elected to his first term in 2018.

This time around, Plumb successfully sold voters a pragmatic approach to politics, saying she will be a more effective lawmaker because of her experience steering liberal causes like naloxone access and syringe exchange programs into law.

For comment on Tuesday’s election results, Kitchen referred The Salt Lake Tribune to his Twitter post where he conceded his seat, congratulated Plumb on her victory and thanked supporters.

“It was a nailbiter for sure,” he wrote. “While I am obviously disappointed with the results, I am so damn proud of the campaign we have built.”

During his campaign, Kitchen told voters he better represented the district as the only millennial in the Senate and only openly queer lawmaker in the Legislature. His primary loss follows a legislative session that saw him stripped of a committee assignment by Democratic leadership.