News Guide: Governor, US Senate among Utah primary races

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah voters will make their choices in a range of primary races Tuesday, including the battle for the Republican nomination for governor, a Democratic U.S. Senate contest and a GOP U.S. House matchup. Here’s a look at what’s at stake:

GOVERNOR FACES UPSTART CHALLENGER

The state’s most closely watched primary race has Utah Gov. Gary Herbert facing off against Republican businessman Jonathan Johnson.

Though the governor generally enjoys high approval ratings, he lost the vote among GOP party faithful at the Republican convention in March, failing to lock up his party’s nomination early.

Herbert has campaigned on Utah’s healthy economy and his experience running the state since replacing Jon Huntsman in 2009. He landed in hot water after a recording emerged of him saying he’d be an “Available Jones” to high-rolling campaign donors, though he insisted the money wouldn’t influence his policies.

Johnson, Overstock.com chairman of the board, is a libertarian-leaning candidate who says he’ll sue to wrest control of public lands from the federal government within the first 100 days of his administration. He got a boost at the GOP convention by spurning a new state law that allows candidates to get on the primary ballot by gathering signatures, something many delegates saw as a rejection of their judgment at the convention. Herbert gathered signatures as well as going before the delegates.

The primary winner faces Democrat Michael Weinholtz in November, but in deep-red Utah, the Republican candidate likely will win.

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CONGRESS, OTHER RACES

Voters will settle a Democratic race for U.S. Senate, a GOP race for the U.S. House and 10 partisan battles in state legislative races. They also will narrow the field of candidates in nonpartisan races for school board and local offices.

High-profile Republican U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz faces a GOP challenger as he seeks a fifth term, but he is expected to prevail over Brigham Young University professor Chia-Chi Teng.

On the Democratic ticket, voters deciding on a Senate candidate will choose between marriage therapist Jonathan Swinton and Misty Snow, a transgender woman who works as a grocery store cashier. The winner will go up against incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, who rode a tea party wave to victory in 2010 and is facing his first re-election campaign.

Residents of the newly created city of Millcreek also will winnow the field in mayor and City Council races for the first time.

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VOTE BY MAIL

Most of the primary votes this year will come in an envelope rather than a ballot box. More than two-thirds of Utah counties are conducting the primary election mostly by mail, which means voters need to pay attention to ballot postmark deadlines or stop at a drop-off location before polls close.

Ballots were mailed out starting June 7 and must be signed and postmarked by Monday. They also can be dropped off at polling places, drop boxes or county clerk’s offices. A list of locations is available on the state elections website.

Each county will have at least one location where votes can be cast in-person on primary election day. People can track their ballots online at www.vote.utah.gov .

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PARTY AFFILIATIONS

People who want to vote in Republican primary must be registered Republicans. Unaffiliated voters can switch their affiliation up to the day of the election, but anyone who’s registered with another party had to change their affiliation by May 31 to participate. Utah’s Democratic primary is open to all voters.

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PRIMARY RACES, CONVENTION BATTLES

About four dozen inter-party races were settled at state and county party conventions in April.

Candidates can become a party’s nominee by winning more than 60 percent of the vote at conventions, where several thousand party activists and officials serve as delegates and cast votes.

If no candidate wins 60 percent, the top two vote-earners compete in a runoff in the June primary. Under a new state law, candidates can also bypass the convention results and earn a spot on the June primary ballot if they collect voter signatures.

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