Utah County Attorney David Leavitt forced Attorney General Sean Reyes into a primary during the Utah Republican Party’s April convention, meaning the two candidates for attorney general will face off in June.
After two rounds of ranked-choice voting at the state GOP’s first virtual convention, the voting period for which ran from Thursday to Saturday, Reyes received 56.4% of delegate votes while Leavitt received 41.7%, enough to advance to the Republican primary.
Former Attorney General John Swallow, who resigned in 2013 amid a bribery and corruption scandal and was later acquitted of criminal charges, was eliminated after the first voting round.
Since being elected as Utah County’s top prosecutor in November 2018, Leavitt has fought to reform the county’s criminal justice system. In March, Leavitt implemented new plea bargain and screening policies in an effort to decrease the number of plea bargain deals struck in the county, deals that he said give prosecutors a dangerous amount of power.
“Every time we do a plea bargain, we take away the jury’s right to decide ‘guilty’ or ‘innocent,’ ” Leavitt told the Daily Herald in January. “That’s what’s wrong with our criminal justice system.”
Leavitt said in March that, if elected attorney general, he would implement similar reforms statewide. He added that he would hold regular communication with county attorney’s offices around the state, which he said Reyes hasn’t done.
President Donald Trump endorsed Reyes on Thursday, tweeting that the incumbent attorney general “is a fighter and hard worker for the Great State of Utah.”
“He is a big supporter of our #MAGA Agenda — Strong on Crime, the Second Amendment, and Loves our Law Enforcement,” Trump tweeted.
Trump also endorsed U.S. Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, tweeting that Curtis “fights for Small Businesses, will Lower your Taxes, and will protect your Second Amendment.”
The former Provo mayor advanced past his Republican challenger, Tim Aalders, with 65.8% of delegate votes. Aalders, who in 2018 ran against U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, received 34.2% of votes.
Curtis was more popular among Republican delegates this year than he was at 2017’s special nominating convention, where he was eliminated in the fourth round of voting and never drew more than 9% of delegate votes. Curtis still advanced to the 2017 primary since he secured a spot on the ballot by gathering signatures.
In the crowded Republican race for the 4th Congressional District seat, which is currently held by U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, state Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, and former NFL player Burgess Owens advanced to the June primary after six rounds of ranked-choice voting with 53.9% and 44.9% of votes, respectively.
Fellow Republican candidates Cindy Thompson, Chris Biesinger, Trent Christensen, Kathleen Anderson and Jay “JayMac” McFarland were eliminated in previous voting rounds. Christensen and McFarland will move on to the primary since they gathered more than the 7,000 required signatures.
Both Coleman and Owens, who are running to replace Utah’s only Democratic congressman, have campaigned on socially conservative and pro-Trump platforms.
During the Utah Democratic Party’s convention over the weekend, McAdams advanced past his Democratic challenger, Daniel Beckstrand, with 89.3% of delegate votes.
Republican Provo Sen. Curt Bramble, who sponsored a bill this past session requiring medical facilities to either cremate or bury the fetal remains of abortions and miscarriages, was forced into a primary against Sylvia Andrew, who received 41.7% of votes during the Republican convention. Bramble got over 58% of votes and had already qualified for the primary through signature-gathering.
In the Republican race for governor, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and running mate Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, advanced to the primary, alongside former House Speaker Greg Hughes and running mate Victor Iverson, a Washington County commissioner.
Provo businessman Jeff Burningham, Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, and Provo resident Jason Christensen were eliminated after six rounds of ranked-choice voting.
Former Governor and U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, whose running mate is Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi, and former Utah Republican Party Chair Thomas Wright were also eliminated but both qualified for the primary by gathering more than 28,000 signatures.
Utah’s primary election will take place on June 30 and voting will be conducted by mail.