Mike Lee receives rock star reception at Utah Republican Convention as national incumbents all advance

The Utah Republican Convention ran into some technical issues with the electronic voting system on Saturday, but there was still plenty of time to advance all of the party’s national seatholders to their respective primaries in June.

The biggest event of the day was the vote for the seat of Senator Mike Lee. Utah’s hybrid nominating system mostly took the decision out of delegates’ hands, as Lee, Becky Edwards and Ally Isom each garnered the 28,000 signatures required to secure a primary spot. Lee still picked up an easy win, getting three-quarters of the delegate vote.

Lee is the closest thing to a rock star you’ll find among Utah’s Republican base. Delegates gave him a standing ovation as he walked up and left the stage for his speech.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Volunteers hand out t-shirts to U.S. Senator Mike Lee during the Utah Republican Party nominating convention, Saturday, April 23, 2022 in Sandy.

“A gathering like this is one of the greatest forces for good that has ever existed,” Lee told the approximately 3,700 delegates in attendance. “We show up and we honor the Constitution of the United States.”

Lee faced criticism this week after text messages showed the senator supporting then-President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.

During her speech, Becky Edwards drew the ire of the crowd when she shot Lee.

“Our senior senator hasn’t done a good job living up to his campaign promises,” Edwards said to a chorus of boos.

Lee, Edwards and Isom now face off in the June primary.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Delegates arrive for the Utah Republican Party nominating convention, Saturday, April 23, 2022, in Sandy.

Curtis squeaks in primary

Representative John Curtis dodged a huge bullet on Saturday, hanging on to qualify for a primary election against perennial candidate Chris Herrod. Curtis did not collect signatures to secure a spot in the primary as he had in his previous three campaigns, which left him vulnerable to being eliminated from the race by delegates.

Herrod got 54% support to Curtis’ 45% to stage a main event fight.

Herrod was one of five candidates challenging Curtis from his political right.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jason Preston, left, candidate for the 3rd congressional district, and Republican consultant Roger Stone at the Utah Republican Party nominating convention, Saturday, April 23, 2022, in Sandy.

Longtime GOP consultant Roger Stone couldn’t help Jason Preston’s campaign as he was knocked out of the race on the first ballot along with Tim Aalders and Lyman Wight.

As expected, Representative Chris Stewart won an easy victory in convention on Saturday, capturing more than 80% of the delegate vote. His opponent, Erin Rider, chose the signature route to secure a spot in the June primary election. In his previous five races, Stewart wrapped up the convention nomination to avoid a primary.

Andrew Badger passes Rep. Blake Moore but both move on

It took three rounds of debates and votes to finally decide which candidates would advance to the primary race for Utah’s 1st congressional district. And in the end, two candidates were given the green light by delegates on Saturday: Andrew Badger and incumbent Representative Blake Moore.

Badger got about 59% of the final vote, while the incumbent got nearly 41%. Badger was less than a percentage point away from becoming the delegates’ only choice.

Tina Cannon, who was eliminated on the second ballot but received enough signatures before Saturday’s convention to advance, will also join them in the primary race.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tina Cannon, candidate for the 1st congressional district, speaks with delegates at the Utah Republican Party nominating convention, Saturday, April 23, 2022 in Sandy.

Badger fired up the crowd with his trio of addresses, decrying numerous Biden administration decisions and encouraging Republicans to fight back. He said he was running on a platform of three issues: end of terms, election security and parental rights in education.

“The future of the GOP is a new generation of conservative warriors who will fight for America first,” he said.

Moore’s speeches mostly revolved around the progress he had made during his first stint in Congress.

“Today you have the opportunity to choose substance over art,” he told the nearly 4,000 delegates present. “Talking is cheap, but the actual work is harder. I fought back against every angle of Biden and Pelosi’s destructive agenda while finding ways to deliver for Utah.

He also ended to applause saying, “Put me back in the majority and I’ll go finish what I started.”

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) U.S. Representative Blake Moore speaks with delegates at the Utah Republican Party nominating convention, Saturday, April 23, 2022, in Sandy.

Owens says he will ‘never allow biological men to compete with our women’

Rep. Burgess Owens joined all Washington incumbents in qualifying for their respective primaries on Saturday in Utah’s 4th congressional district.

And he did it convincingly, getting more than 68% of the vote and beating his only Republican challenger at the convention, Jake Hunsaker. However, Hunsaker collected enough signatures to advance to the primary regardless.

Owens was cheered enthusiastically by the remaining delegates as he delivered his speech, which focused on the principles he stands for and those he does not stand for.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) U.S. Representative Burgess Owens speaks with delegates to the Utah Republican Party nominating convention, Saturday, April 23, 2022, in Sandy.

He specifically advocated “a level playing field that will never allow biological men to compete with our women.”

“We don’t do that,” he said to cheers.

Near the end of his speech, he called Utah “the true light of our nation.”

Daniel Thatcher, who voted against HB11, advances

Incumbent Daniel Thatcher was able to garner enough delegate support to win his party’s nomination over three other challengers. His bid for another term was thought to be in jeopardy as he was one of two Republicans in the Senate to vote against Governor Spencer Cox’s veto of a bill banning transgender athletes from women’s athletics.

Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers and Senate Majority Whip Ann Millner are both heading into the June primaries. Deputy Senate Majority Whip Kirk Cullimore avoided a primary, winning 81% of the delegate vote.

Rep. Kera Birkeland, the author of HB11, won the nod from delegates on Saturday in HD4, garnering 70% of the vote. That total eliminates former state Rep. Logan Wilde from the race. He was trying to regain the seat he left to take up a post in the administration of former Governor Gary Herbert.

Birkeland still faces a June primary as Raelene Blocker has submitted signatures.