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Too close to call: First results of governor’s race don’t show clear frontrunner

Election officials say resources are available to help make an informed choice prior to casting a vote in the November general election. (PHOTO: John Wojcik KSL NewsRadio)

SALT LAKE CITY — The governor’s race in Utah is deemed too close to call as first results come in late Tuesday night — with election staffers not expecting official results until later this week. 

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has an early lead in the polls for the GOP nomination in the 2020 Utah governor’s race, preliminary results show

As of Wednesday morning with first preliminary results, Cox leads with 37.03% followed by Jon Huntsman with 34.261%. Results also show Greg Hughes with 20.71% and Thomas Wright with 8% of the votes.

SPENCER COX / DEIDRE HENDERSON – 37.03% | 148,528 votes

JON HUNTSMAN / MICHELLE KAUFUSI – 34.26% | 137,431 votes

GREG HUGHES / VICTOR IVERSON – 20.71% | 83,063 votes

THOMAS WRIGHT / ROB BISHOP – 8.00% | 32,082 votes

Updated 6:00 a.m.  7/1

However, these numbers are not official results as ballots will continue being counted Wednesday and Thursday. The postmark deadline was changed during a special season in April to resolve issues posed by the pandemic, allowing ballots that were postmarked anytime Tuesday to be counted in the final tally. 

Voters and candidates can expect results to be posted later than usual, as Utah conducted an all-mail primary — in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As a result, poll locations throughout the state were closed and the postmark deadline extended to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Typically, official results can be expected two weeks after polls close — but Utah is extending this to three weeks, accounting for election staff members to quarantine.

In the meantime, daily vote counts are released at 3 p.m. 

The governor’s race has gained much interest because Utah is guaranteed a new state leader, with current Gov. Gary Herbert announcing he would not run for re-election in 2019. Gov. Herbert has held the seat since 2009 — making this the first election with an open governor’s seat in over a decade. 

Roughly 607 thousand ballots were sent out for the GOP primary, with roughly 392 thousand ballots turned in and processed by 5:30 p.m. This is a jump from recent years, with roughly 381 thousand ballots turned in for the 2018 primary and 318 thousand in 2016, according to election officials. 

Both Cox and Hughes qualified for the Republican primary during the party’s state convention April 25 — receiving 52.6% and 43.1% of the vote, respectively. 

Huntsman and Wright qualified through the signature-gathering process, obtaining the required 28,000 signatures to appear on the primary ballot. Cox also qualified via signature gathering. 

Wednesday morning, Hughes and Wright conceded the race in social media posts, leaving Cox and Huntsman as the last two candidates in a lengthy primary fight.

ARCHIVE: Greg Hughes, Thomas Wright still optimistic for a win in governor’s race

Whichever candidate emerges from the primary will face Democratic nominee Chris Peterson — who qualified for the general election during the party’s state convention, receiving 88.4% majority vote. Because Peterson received over 60% of the convention’s majority, the Democratic primary was canceled as he advanced straight to the November ballot. 

Peterson will appear on the ballot with running mate Karina Brown. 

This story is developing and will be updated.