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Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and former Gov. Jon Huntsman remain the favorites to win the GOP nomination for governor in June, but Former House Speaker Greg Hughes is starting to surge according to a new poll of likely Republican primary election voters.

The Utah Political Trends survey from UtahPolicy.com and KUTV 2News conducted by Y2 Analytics shows Cox with 40 percent support, followed by Huntsman with 33 percent and Hughes with 16 percent. Businessman Jeff Burningham has 5 percent, Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton has 4 percent and real estate executive Thomas Wright with 1 percent. Jan Garbett and Jason Christensen have less than one percent support each.

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Cox and Huntsman have essentially kept the same level of support from our survey taken in December of 2019. Cox was at 41 percent with Huntsman at 29 percent support. However, Hughes jumped 11 points in the four months since that survey.

Y2 also asked Republican voters who their second and third choices would be if their first choice candidate were not on the ballot. That’s a critical piece of data as only two candidates, Cox and Wright, have secured a spot on the primary ballot so far. Huntsman and Garbett are still scrambling to gather the 28,000 signatures needed to advance to the primary, while Hughes, Burningham, Winder Newton and Christensen are seeking the endorsement of GOP delegates at the upcoming Utah Republican State Convention. If Huntsman falls short of the 28,000 signature threshold, he will still compete at the convention, while Garbett’s campaign will end if she cannot get enough Republicans to sign her petitions as she chose the signature-only route and will not go through the convention.

No more than two candidates will advance to the primary ballot from the Republican state convention. If one candidate secures 60 percent of the vote at convention, then they will be the only candidate to move on to the primary. If not, then the top two vote-getters will move on.

Republican delegates will used ranked-choice voting at the convention this year to avoid several rounds of balloting, which will be more convenient as the convention will be held virtually this year instead of in person due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

Cox leads as the second-choice among GOP primary voters with 29 percent. 23 percent said Huntsman was their second choice and 15 percent picked Hughes second. Winder Newton and Burningham were the second pick of 11 percent of primary voters while Wright and Garbett were chosen second by 4 percent and Christensen is at 3 percent. 

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Burningham and Hughes lead the third choice rankings with 19 percent support each. Winder Newton is at 16 percent, Cox is at 11 percent, Wright comes in at 10 percent, with Huntsman and Garbett at 9 percent each. Christensen gets 6 percent among when voters picked their third choice.

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The upcoming Republican primary is closed, meaning only registered Republicans can cast a ballot. However, if voters choose to affiliate with the Republican Party, then they’re able to vote in the election. 

Y2 surveyed unaffiliated voters who are likely to give up their independent status and join the GOP to vote in the upcoming primary. Those unaffiliated Utahns are almost evenly divided between Huntsman and Cox, with Huntsman at 33 percent and Cox at 32 percent. Hughes is backed by 23 percent. The rest of the field is in the single digits.

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The survey was conducted by Y2 Analytics from March 21-30 among 641 likely Republican primary election voters with a margin of error +/- 3.9 percentage points.

UtahPolicy.com recently partnered with KUTV 2News and Y2 Analytics and will be providing polling results on a regular basis throughout the election season. You can sign up for UtahPolicy.com’s daily email newsletter here.