SALT LAKE CITY – Gov. Gary Herbert has been forced into a primary against challenger Jonathan Johnson at the Utah Republican Convention in Salt Lake City, Saturday.
Johnson received 55 percent of the delegate vote for Hebert’s 44 percent in a second round of voting. The numbers mirror the results of the first round of votes. Failure of either candidate to secure at least 60 percent of the vote dictated there will be a June primary as that’s the magic number necessary to try and avoid a primary.
Candidates Nate Jensen and Carlos Tavares were knocked out in the first round.
“I think a couple of the messages the delegates sent today is they don’t appreciate the continuous tax increases when we have 700 million dollar surpluses,” state delegate Paul Cozzens, of Cedar City, said. “In talking to many delegates they are not happy with education issues like common core.”
Following the convention Johnson issued the following statement.
“I am ecstatic and enthused at today’s tremendous win. Today’s victory is a testament that delegates and voters know Utah can do it better,” Johnson said. “We can do better in localizing and personalizing our education model, stretching our tax dollars and managing our own lands. I am honored and thank the delegates for trusting me to lead Utah to new heights. The momentum won’t stop here.”
While addressing the delegates, Johnson said local decision-making is better, repeating a common theme of his campaign of support for local determination in policy over federal-level dictates.
Johnson also spoke against Herbert concerning the governor being a “champion” of the controversial education program Common Core. Johnson said, he believes the program gives control of state education to federal bureaucrats.
Other points Johnson went after Herbert on concerned the raising of taxes and gathering signatures under Senate Bill 54, the Count My Vote compromise law, the governor signed two years ago. The governor hadn’t pushed enough to gain state-control of public lands, he said.
Under the Count My Vote compromise, recently found by a federal court to be constitutional, candidates no longer need 60 percent of the delegates’ votes for a primary to occur, but can force one by gathering a number of required signatures. Herbert’s choice to take this route drew criticism from Johnson and his supporters.
Herbert’s opponent accused him of paying someone over $100,000 to collect the necessary signatures to guarantee the governor’s name on the primary ballot. Johnson said he chose not to go the signature-signing route because he trusted the caucus-convention system and the delegates.
Herbert, speaking to the delegates, defended his record while in office.
“I have a record. And it’s a good record, and I will proudly stand by it,” Herbert said.
On education, he said there was nothing more important that having local control. He also said parents have the primary responsibility for educating their children.
The governor also said the state’s tax burden is 11 percent below the national average, helping to make Utah a more business-friendly state.
The state’s economy was in trouble when he first took office, Herbert said. With the help of others along the way, the state has turned around and become an economic success, he said.
The fight to defend traditional marriage, and taking a stand against Planned Parenthood and pornography, were also mentioned by the incumbent.
The primary is set for June 28. Whoever wins there will go on to face Democratic challenger Mike Weinholtz, the nominee for the Democratic Party. Weinholtz won the nomination Saturday during the party’s convention.
A recorded 3,890 delegates out of 4,000 participated in the Utah Republican Convention Saturday.
St. George News/Cedar City News reporter Tracie Sullivan contributed to this report.
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