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John Curtis Wins GOP Primary for Chaffetz’s Seat in Utah

Provo mayor had been attacked for his Democratic past

Utah Republican John Curtis won the 3rd District Republican primary on Tuesday. (Courtesy John Curtis Facebook page)
Utah Republican John Curtis won the 3rd District Republican primary on Tuesday. (Courtesy John Curtis Facebook page)

Provo Mayor John Curtis has won the Republican primary to replace former Rep. Jason Chaffetz in Utah’s 3rd District.

With 91 percent of precincts reporting, Curtis had 41 percent of the vote, The Associated Press reported. The other two contenders, former state Rep. Chris Herrod and businessman Tanner Ainge, trailed with 31 percent and 28 percent, respectively. 

Curtis is in a strong position heading into the Nov. 7 general election. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican.

He will face Democrat Kathie Allen, a local physician, who was uncontested in her primary. Jim Bennett, the son of the late Utah GOP Sen. Robert F. Bennett, will also be on the general election ballot under his United Utah Party line. The elder Bennett, who served three terms in the Senate, was ousted in a tea party wave in 2010 at a state party convention. Utah voters ultimately replaced him with Mike Lee, currently the state’s junior senator. 

As the mayor of Provo, the largest city in the district, Curtis had been the clear front-runner in the race. Recent polls had shown the race tightening, thanks in part to spending from outside groups that attacked Curtis’ Democratic past and raising taxes as mayor. 

Herrod had cast himself as the true conservative in the 3rd District Republican primary. The former state representative helped run Sen. Ted Cruz’s GOP presidential campaign in the state and the Texas Republican backed him in the special election. The Club for Growth’s campaign arm also endorsed Herrod, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in ads against Curtis and Ainge. 

Ainge had entered the race as a political newcomer, though his last name was familiar to Utahns. His father Danny was a star basketball player at Brigham Young University (located in the district) and played 14 seasons in the NBA. He is now the general manager for the Boston Celtics (which recently nabbed the Utah Jazz’s star player). 

Curtis’ victory came despite the outside money funding ads attacking him. 

His name recognition and popularity as Provo mayor likely boosted his campaign. He also had some help from Utah’s Republican Gov. Gary R. Herbert, who endorsed Curtis and cut a radio ad for his campaign. Before becoming mayor of Provo, Curtis led Action Target, a company that develops technology for shooting ranges.

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