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Cox cinches Republican nomination for govenor

Robert Stevens // Messenger Photo
Newly elected Republican gubernatorial candidate and current Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox waves to cars as they pass by his house as part of a surprise celebration for his election primary win on Tuesday.

SALT LAKE CITY—The race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination has been called, and Sanpete County native Spencer Cox is winner.

Meanwhile, Steve Lund of Manti, a Sanpete County commissioner, is the winner in a race for nomination to the Utah Legislature serving Sanpete and Juab counties.

Although the final count won’t be completed for a couple more weeks, the Associated Press called the race for Cox Monday at 4 p.m. Shortly afterward, Cox declared victory.

As of Monday, Cox had 185,104 votes, or 36.4 percent to Jon Huntsman’s 175,970 votes or 34.6 percent. Greg Hughes and Thomas Wright were well behind those numbers.

Cox and his lieutenant governor running mate, State Sen. Diedre Henderson, R-Spanish Frok, will face Democratic nominee Chris Peterson, a University of Utah law professor, and Petersen’s running mate, Karina Brown of Cache County, who was involved in the campaign to expand Medicaid. But given Utah’s overwhelming Republican registration, Cox and Henderson have the upper hand.

“Senator Henderson and I are humbled by the vote of confidence from the people of Utah in selecting us as the Republican nominees for governor and lieutenant governor,” Cox said. “As farm kids from Sanpete County, Abby and I never dreamed of having this opportunity. If elected in November, we will take our rural values of hard work, honesty and responsibility to the governor’s office each day.”

Cox’s win comes on the heels of a decisive win at the Utah State Republican Convention, and many firsts in this campaign, including the first candidate for governor to visit all 248 incorporated Utah cities and towns, and the first to submit 28,000 signatures to guarantee placement on the primary ballot.

Nearly 3,000 individual donors contributed to his campaign, the most ever in a Utah gubernatorial race, according to spokesperson Heather Barney.

“The next four years will be critically important to Utah’s future,” Cox continued. “We must rebuild our economy, restore the joy of teaching for our educators and bring new opportunities for smart growth to both the Wasatch Front and rural Utah.”

Cox said he and his wife Abby believe a big take-away from the primary election is that Utah does not respond to negative campaigns. He stated many times throughout his campaign that he would not smear anyone. He said he wanted to win, clean and fair.

“We feel blessed to live in the greatest state in America and invite all Utahns to join us in ensuring it always remains that way,” Cox said.

In Cox’s hometown of Fairview, community members, including Fairview Mayor Dave Taylor, organized a surprise driveby celebration for Cox and his family with dozens of vehicles passing through Cox’s driveway, honking and waving while the newly elected Republican gubernatorial candidate waved from his front lawn shouting thanks to the cars that came through to congratulate him and Abby.

Cox’s primary opponent, Jon Huntsman Jr. released a statement following the call of the very close primary election on Monday.

“Today the race was called, and we accept the will of the people, as is our tradition as Americans,” Huntsman said. “The visions put forward for Utah were very different, and regret that I will not be leading the efforts in moving us towards a new horizon.

“This was anything but a typical campaign season, with the COVID-19 pandemic making impossible our ability to meet face-to-face with more of the people in communities across our state. However, I am heartened by the record voter turnout we saw in this primary election and I hope every eligible voter will exercise this most sacred right in November.”

In the race for the Utah House of Representatives, District 58, Lund had 5,202 votes, or 57.5 percent as of Monday, while Clinton L. Painter, a Juab County commissioner, had 3,839 or 42.5 percent.

Lund has no Democratic opposition in the final election. He said last week that the speaker of the House had been in touch with him, and he was starting to get oriented to his new role.