By Jim Ellis
June 23, 2017 — Last Saturday, in news that has been somewhat overshadowed by the recent special elections I’ve been writing about, former state Representative Chris Herrod, who challenged Sen. Orrin Hatch for re-nomination in 2012, won the special Republican nominating convention to replace outgoing Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy). Herrod advances to the Aug. 15 Republican primary to face Provo Mayor John Curtis and businessman Tanner Ainge, who both qualified for the ballot via petition signature.
Once Rep. Chaffetz announced he would leave the House without completing his current term, Gov. Gary Herbert (R) scheduled the replacement special election to include an Aug. 15 primary and a Nov. 7 general election. The political parties had the option of holding a nominating convention, which the Republicans quickly scheduled for this past Saturday, June 17. They changed the normal party rules to select one candidate for advancement rather than two if no candidate received 60 percent of the delegate vote.
Almost 800 Republican precinct delegates gathered in Provo for the special election vote. Eleven candidates were on the ballot, and it took five rounds of voting before Herrod emerged with a majority vote. On the final ballot, he defeated state Sen. Deidre Henderson, 415-338, for 55.1 percent of those present and voting, thus exceeding the majority mark and clinching the official party endorsement.
In regular Utah convention politics, candidates are required to receive 60 percent of the delegate vote to, if no candidates qualify by petition signature, clinch the actual party nomination. Because this is a special congressional election, the first held in Utah since 1930, the party leaders altered the convention rules to produce only one winner once 50 percent support was obtained. The fact that at least one other candidate would apparently qualify via signature -– an onerous requirement of 7,000 valid signatures gathered exclusively with circulators from the 3rd District -– factored heavily in the leaders’ decision to change the convention rules. This way, they could limit the number of primary participants.