New poll shows Rep. John Curtis with a big lead over rivals in Utah’s 2024 U.S. Senate race — if he runs

State Sen. Mike Kennedy said Friday he is forming an “exploratory committee” in anticipation of running for Utah’s 3rd Congressional District next year.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) U.S. Congressman John Curtis speaks at the Sutherland Institute at Utah Valley University, on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023. A new poll shared with The Salt Lake Tribune shows Curtis has a big lead in Utah’s 2024 U.S. Senate race — if he runs.

If Rep. John Curtis decides to jump into the race to replace Sen. Mitt Romney in the U.S. Senate, he’ll have a big head start over some candidates who have been campaigning for months, according to a new poll.

A poll shared with The Salt Lake Tribune shows Curtis with a significant lead over former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson and Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs in a hypothetical, three-way GOP primary.

The survey — paid for by the Conservative Values for Utah political action committee — of 600 likely Republican primary voters gives Curtis 40% support, with Wilson receiving 11% and Staggs at 6%. The remaining 43% of voters said they were undecided.

Curtis also has a clear advantage in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup with Wilson. In that scenario, Curtis receives 44% to Wilson’s 12%.

Corey Norman, chief of staff for Curtis, was enthusiastic about those results when contacted by The Tribune.

“These poll results confirm that Utahns appreciate John’s strong track record of getting things done,” Norman said. “John appreciates the continued encouragement from around the state to enter the U.S. Senate race.”

Those surveyed also have a much more favorable opinion of Curtis than Wilson or Staggs, with 47% saying they view Curtis favorably, while 13% hold an unfavorable opinion of the fourth-term congressman. Wilson is viewed favorably by 21%, and 12% have a negative opinion. Nine percent hold a favorable opinion of Staggs, while 7% view him unfavorably.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brad Wilson launches his 2024 Senate campaign at The Studio in Draper, on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023.

Wilson campaign spokesperson Danny Laub said the race to replace Romney is just getting started.

“We’re confident that Brad Wilson will have the resources to introduce himself to voters and continue building on his already unprecedented support across the state,” Laub told The Tribune. “Utahns everywhere have been clear: they want a conservative fighter like Brad Wilson in the Senate, not another Washington insider who is just looking for his next promotion after promising Utahns weeks ago he wasn’t finished with his current job.”

Staggs dismissed the poll results when reached for comment on Friday morning.

“Without a single dollar spent in advertising, we’ve built a coalition of conservatives statewide who are hungry for America First representation,” Staggs said in a text message to The Tribune.

The PAC who funded the poll is the same group behind last month’s television ads urging Curtis to run for Senate. Curtis initially passed on running for Romney’s seat but said he was reconsidering that decision, in part, because of those ads. The poll was conducted by Boise-based Guidant Polling and Strategy from Nov. 28 to Dec. 5. It has a margin of error of +/- 4.0%.

If he decides to run, Curtis will join a crowded Republican field, hoping to become Romney’s successor.

Wilson, who started running for Romney’s seat in April, recently launched his first television ads to support his candidacy. So far, Wilson has put $1.8 million of his own money into his campaign effort.

Staggs has been working overtime to win endorsements from allies of former President Donald Trump. Kari Lake, who still disputes her loss in the 2022 Arizona gubernatorial race, headlined a September fundraiser for Staggs. Trump loyalist Kash Patel, who recently threatened retribution against Trump’s political enemies if Trump is reelected in 2024, campaigned for Staggs in Utah earlier this month.

Roosevelt Mayor Rod Bird and Carolyn Phippen, a former staffer for Sen. Mike Lee, are also among the hopefuls aiming for Romney’s seat.

An open race in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District?

If Curtis does pull the trigger on a U.S. Senate run next year, it could open the floodgates with Republicans hoping to replace him in Congress.

On Friday, state Sen. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, said he was forming an “exploratory committee” in anticipation of running for Congress next year.

“I am exploring a congressional bid because now more than ever, we need conservatives who can work with others to confront these issues head-on, bringing fiscal restraint, enhanced border security and common sense leadership to Washington,” Kennedy said in a news release.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mike Kennedy, during the special session, approving the special election to replace Rep. Chris Stewart, on Wednesday, June 14, 2023.

Kennedy, a physician who also holds a law degree, authored Utah’s ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth the Legislature passed earlier this year. This would be Kennedy’s second run for Congress. He lost to Romney in Utah’s 2018 GOP primary. Kennedy would not have to give up his seat in the Utah Senate to mount a congressional campaign and was reelected to a four-year term in 2022 and does not face re-election until 2026.

Utah State Auditor John Dougall also says he is seriously considering running for Curtis’s seat next year.

“Many folks have encouraged me to consider running for CD3. I was in D.C. on Tuesday and Wednesday this week doing due diligence,” Dougall said in a text message to The Tribune.

Former state Rep. Chris Herrod, who Curtis defeated in the 2017, 2018 and 2022 Republican primary elections, confirmed he’s considering a fourth run for Congress depending on what Curtis ultimately decides.