SALT LAKE CITY - A Utah mayor overcame nearly $1 million in attacks from out-of-state groups to win a three-way Republican primary in a race to fill a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives vacated by Jason Chaffetz.
Tuesday’s win puts Provo Mayor John Curtis on an easy path toward victory in the November special election. Republicans outnumber Democrats 5-to-1 in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District. Chaffetz represented the district until he abruptly resigned in June, citing a desire to spend more time with family.
Utah’s special election is one of seven this year to fill vacancies in the U.S. House and Senate, five of which opened up when elected officials took posts in President Donald Trump’s administration.
Chaffetz joins Fox News
Chaffetz, a five-term Republican, carved out a reputation for using the House Oversight committee he chaired to run aggressive investigations of Hillary Clinton before the 2016 presidential elections. He’s since taken a role as a Fox News commentator.
His departure opened up a congressional seat in an area that stretches from the Salt Lake City suburbs and several ski towns southeast to Provo and coal country.
The three Republicans running to replace him carved out nuanced stances toward Trump that were emblematic of the divisions roiling the GOP under the president.
Curtis most moderate
Curtis, who drew support from the GOP’s more moderate flank, was the only candidate who didn’t vote for Trump, saying he had significant moral concerns about supporting the billionaire businessman.
Tanner Ainge, the Sarah Palin-endorsed son of Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge, said he voted for Trump because he always votes for the Republican candidate in presidential elections.
Chris Herrod, a former state lawmaker backed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, was the most vocal supporter of Trump, having spoken at a rally for the president.
However, all three candidates said they support the president’s agenda, including plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Unofficial results show Curtis as the victor after his opponents split support from more conservative Republicans.
The 57-year-old used his victory speech Tuesday to decry the heavy outside spending, which usually isn’t seen in primary races in overwhelmingly Republican Utah.
“I’ve got a message to those PACs in Washington, D.C. and those special interests: This is my town, this is my district. Go home. You wasted your money,” Curtis said.