Around 750 3rd House District Republican delegates decided Saturday that former state House Rep. Chris Herrod will be their nominee to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz.
But that’s not the end of the story.
In fact, the vote Saturday may not even count – as UtahPolicy reports the whole Chaffetz replacement election process may well go to court, with the Utah Supreme Court deciding whether the signature-delegate process set up by GOP Gov. Gary Herbert is legal or not.
Gone from the race are state Sens. Deidre Henderson and Margaret Dayton, with Herrod, who has lost two races in the last several years, emerging as the favorite among what clearly were conservative GOP delegates.
Herrod got over the top because Dayton threw her support to him, rather than Henderson – an apprentice of Chaffetz’ who managed one of his recent re-election campaigns.
The delegates rejection of Henderson, who ran a slick, well-funded convention fight, may in part be due to anger with Chaffetz for resigning his seat early.
In any case, the day started with 794 delegates out of 1,085 on the official list being certified (others not attending), with the delegate numbers dropping as round after round of electronic voting took place and delegates left the east side Provo high school, Timpview High.
GOP delegates (753), in a final round of voting, picked Herrod, with 55.11 percent of the vote, to advance to the now-set Aug. 15 party primary election.
Under special convention rules, only the top vote getter will go to the primary. Henderson finished second and Dayton was third out of 11 convention candidates.
Already on that ballot (unless a court decides otherwise) are Provo Mayor John Curtis and Tanner Ainge – both of whom gathered 7,000 signatures of registered Republican voters in the district.
Curtis also took the convention route, and delegates eliminated him in the fourth round of voting.
In an interview after his election, Herrod said Curtis will be his main primary competition, as the mayor is already known to many 3rd District voters.
“I’ve stayed active” in politics after he left the Legislature, said Herrod. He declined to say he is an arch-conservative, although others would quickly label him as such.
“I’m a platform Republican. I stand for the platforms” of the Utah County GOP and the national Republican Party, he said.
Clearly, Herrod will try to paint Curtis as a RINO – Republican in name only. Curtis ran years ago for the Utah Senate as a Democrat.
So, as it now stands, Herrod will be on the Aug. 15 ballot with Curtis and Ainge.
The one who gets the most votes there, even if it is not 50 percent-plus-one, will be the GOP nominee before the early November general election.
Ainge did not have a booth at Timpview, and UtahPolicy.com did not see him working delegates before the convention started.
Depending on what happens Aug. 15 – where only registered Republicans living in the 3rd District may vote – this could be the first party primary in Utah history where the final nominee did not go before party delegates – but was elected directly by voters.
Even though Herrod came out of the convention, he will have an uphill primary battle.
Remember 2016 – conservative businessman Jonathan Johnson won the most delegate votes in his right-wing challenge to Gov. Gary Herbert. But in the later party primary, Herbert crushed Johnson – showing once again that GOP delegates are more conservative than regular Republican voters.
The 3rd District is more conservative than Utah as a whole. Still, Curtis is more moderate than Herrod, and it is yet unclear exactly where Ainge stands on a number of issues of the day, he has not campaigned widely yet.
Herrod gained strength as the rounds of voting proceeded – and it was clear from the few votes that Dayton got in the fourth round that she had already thrown her support to Herrod – who cited his various conservative-constitutional credits by saying when he served in the Utah House he co-founded the Patrick Henry caucus there.
It remains to be seen – if no court interferes with the rest of the election cycle – if Herrod can raise the money to compete with Ainge and Curtis, a popular Provo mayor who years ago ran for the Utah Senate as a Democrat before being elected to the non-partisan Provo office twice.
“I think it will take $200,000, even $400,000” to run a successful primary election, Herrod told UtahPolicy.
He doesn’t have personal wealth, so will have to raise the money.
Newly-elected Utah GOP chairman Rob Anderson – who conducted the sometimes raucous convention – last Friday told Utah Elephant Club donors that the party will stay out of the primary race – not endorse any candidate and provide all primary candidates with the same structural help – like voter lists.
Now there will be at least a bit of a quiet time for the candidates, as this race shifts to the internal political battles between Herbert and legislators.