Provo Mayor John Curtis says he’s on track to collect the 7,000 signatures he needs to secure a place on the August primary ballot, and then some.
Curtis says he has mostly been using volunteers to gather the 7,000 needed signatures but has turned to paid staff to get a couple thousand more signatures so that they have a cushion.
“We’re cautiously optimistic we’ll get the signatures turned in by Monday,” says Curtis. “It would be a shame to put all that work into it and come up just short. We’ve got to overshoot it by a healthy margin.”
Curtis would be the second Republican to automatically advance to the August ballot in the special election in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District. Tanner Ainge turned in 9,000 signatures earlier this week. Ainge used mostly paid signature gatherers to book his spot on the ballot.
“I don’t think anybody can appreciate the difficulty of the task,” said Curtis. “It sounds simple to gather 7,000 signatures, but it’s much harder. I will be the first to admit the task is daunting. Nobody imagined the level of support we would have from our volunteers.”
The difference between Ainge and Curtis is the Provo Mayor plans to face delegates at the June 17 3rd District nominating convention where delegates will send one of 12 candidates to the ballot. Ainge is taking the signature route only.
Curtis says even if he secures a spot on the ballot through signatures, he plans on facing delegates as well, hoping to convince them to vote for him. That’s a risky move because delegates are not a group that is very fond of the signature-gathering route to the ballot.
“I’ve been holding delegate meetings all across the district, but I don’t have time to meet will all 1,100 of them,” says Curtis. “Almost all of them have questions for me about why I’m gathering signatures. For some it’s a deal-breaker, for others, it’s not.”
Curtis, who ran as a Democrat against Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, in 2000, has a history with the delegate system that probably spooked him. In the race to replace Rep. Jeff Alexander when he stepped down mid-term, he won the most delegate votes to replace him, but he was not picked to fill the seat.
“I tell delegates I’ve done your route before and got the most votes, and you didn’t pick me. At least I’m not like Ainge who is bypassing the delegates completely.”
Curtis says he was spurred to gather signatures to get on the ballot because the Utah GOP changed the rules for this election, opting to have delegates send just one person to the ballot with a simple majority. The old rules would have allowed two candidates to advance to the primary if none got 60% of the delegate vote.
“I call that the ‘John Curtis rule,'” says Curtis with a laugh. “Had they not changed the rule, I probably wouldn’t have gone with the signature route. But, I respect the delegate process, and that’s why I’m going to the convention.”
Signatures must be turned into the Lt. Governor’s office by noon on June 12.