Four GOP governor candidates to appear on primary ballot

FILE – In this Jan. 31, 2020, file photo, former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes speaks during a debate for Utah’s 2020 gubernatorial race, in Salt Lake City. Hughes chose an elected official from southern Utah as his running mate in the governor’s race Tuesday, April 14, 2020. Hughes, a Republican, pointed to Victor Iverson’s efforts to keep the tax rate low and rainy-day funds robust in Washington County, calling him a “proven leader with a commitment to conservative principles.” (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Republican voters will have a fourth gubernatorial hopeful to choose from in the June primary after former state House Speaker Greg Hughes qualified for a spot on the ballot.

Conservative Hughes joins two front-runners who are considered more moderate, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and ex-U.S.-Russia Ambassador Jon Huntsman, Jr., as well as former GOP chair Thomas Wright.

Hughes nabbed his spot Saturday by winning support from delegates at the state party’s nominating convention, held virtually during the coronavirus crisis. Cox won the largest share of the vote but didn’t quite hit the 60% threshold needed to secure the nomination outright, so second-place Hughes advanced to the ballot as well.

Huntsman and Wright trailed at the convention, but they had already secured their spots by gathering signatures from voters. Salt Lake County Council member Aimee Winder-Newton and businessman Jeff Burningham had pinned their hopes on the convention but failed to qualify.

On the Democratic side, party delegates eliminated the need for a primary by choosing University of Utah law professor Chris Peterson outright. He’ll face the victor of the GOP primary in November.

The Republican nominee will be a shoo-in, though, to replace GOP Gov. Gary Herbert, who is not running again after more than a decade in the office.

In other convention developments:

— The GOP race to unseat the lone Democrat in Utah’s congressional delegation remains a crowded four-way contest, the Deseret News reports. Both Utah Rep. Kim Coleman and former NFL player Burgess Owens made the ballot Saturday, joining former radio pundit Jay Mcfarland and non-profit CEO Trent Christensen. The eventual winner will face Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams in November for the suburban Salt Lake City seat.

— The wide-open race for northern Utah’s 1st Congressional District is down to four GOP candidates: former state lawmaker Kerry Gibson and U.S. foreign service officer Blake David Moore made it through convention, while Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt and Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson had already secured their spots.

— Republican Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes was forced into a primary election against David Leavitt, the top prosecutor in Utah County who is focused on criminal justice reform. Eliminated was John Swallow, a previous attorney general who resigned amid scandal but was later acquitted at trial.

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