Moore, Stevenson in dead heat in primary for 1st Congressional District

SALT LAKE CITY — Blake Moore and Bob Stevenson are virtually tied with 30.26% and 29.63% of the vote respectively in the Republican primary for the 1st Congressional District, according to initial primary results released late Tuesday.

Of the other Republican candidates in the race, Kerry Gibson got 23% of the vote, and Katie Witt got 17%.

In the Democratic race, Darren Parry got 52% of the vote and Jamie Cheek received 48%, early returns show.

The 1st Congressional District seat is open for the first time in nearly two decades, bringing together a flurry of candidates vying to replace retiring Republican Rep. Rob Bishop — Utah’s longest-serving congressional member. Bishop, who is Thomas Wright’s running mate in the GOP primary for Utah governor, announced last summer he would not seek another term.

The district covers an expansive portion of northern Utah, Summit County and extends into the Uinta Basin.

Businessman Blake Moore speaks during the 1st Congressional District Republican debate at the PBS Utah studios in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 2, 2020.Rick Egan

“We are thrilled to be in the spot we are. We knew it was going to be a tight race. Every candidate gave it their all, it’s been an honor to go up in this election,” Moore, an executive with a managing consulting firm, said. “Honestly it’s a tight race, we will see how this plays out.”

This is his first time embarking in a race for a political office. A former foreign service officer, Moore has said he believes his background in public service and corporate experience qualifies him to address issues in D.C.

“If we are able to hang onto this lead I look forward to a general election built on ideas, issues and figuring out what we need to do,” Moore said. “We’ve got to get our economy back on track and I look forward to doing that — being a unique voice with a different kind of background, coming in directly from the private sector and in a unique background to that kind of conversation.”

Moore has touted the value of Hill Air Force Base, calling it the “top priority” in the 1st District, as well as stressed public lands’ importance.

Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson speaks during the 1st Congressional District Republican debate at the PBS Utah studios in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 2, 2020.Rick Egan

Stevenson, a Davis County commissioner, serves on the Utah Defense Alliance Board. Stevenson also works to promote economic development as co-chairman of the Northern Utah Economic Alliance. He also served two terms as the Layton mayor.

He said his campaign anticipated the race to be “very, very close from the get go” and assumed that either he or Moore would narrowly edge each other out in initial results. Stevenson said he appreciates all of the support from voters who cast their ballots for him.

Former Utah Agriculture Commissioner Kerry Gibson speaks during the 1st Congressional District Republican debate at the PBS Utah studios in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 2, 2020.Rick Egan

Dairy farmer Gibson served six years in the Utah Legislature and spent two terms on the Weber County Commission. Gov. Gary Herbert recently tapped Gibson to serve as the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food commissioner, but he stepped down to run in the 1st District race.

Gibson could not be reached for comment on Tuesday’s results.

Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt speaks during the 1st Congressional District Republican debate at the PBS Utah studios in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, June 2, 2020.Rick Egan

Witt, Kaysville’s mayor, has described herself as “pro-Trump, pro-gun and pro-life.”

Witt, whose colleagues on the Kaysville City Council voted to censure her in early June, made headlines in May after she supported a protest concert in her city calling for additional businesses to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m humbled by all of the positive feedback we’ve received from Utahns for Reopening America and Restoring Our Constitutional Freedoms,” Witt said in a statement. “There is a lot going on in society right now that is designed to tear us apart. We need to come together as one nation, one people, and with one purpose. I’m committed to ensuring that America remains the beacon of hope for the world.”

Democratic race

While a Democrat has not held the 1st District seat for 40 years, Cheek and Parry hope to win a spot on the Nov. 3 ballot. Both candidates have listed climate change and protecting the state’s public lands as top priorities.

Parry, former chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, currently serves on the tribe’s council. He’s worked with government leaders in the state for years, securing at one point $750,000 from the Utah Legislature to help fund an interpretative center at the Bear River Massacre site.

Darren Parry speaks during a 1st Congressional District Democratic debate at the PBS Utah studios on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City on Monday, June 1, 2020.Steve Griffin, Deseret News

“Just really happy to be in the lead right now but I think there are quite a few votes that still need to be counted and so will just patiently wait for those, but it’s always better to be up than down,” Parry said about initial results.

Cheek, a first-generation college graduate, is a Utah State Office of Rehabilitation district director. She has said she thinks now might be the time for the 1st District seat to be flipped blue and believes the proposal to cut greenhouse gas and other pollution under the Green New Deal should be pursued.

Jamie Cheek speaks during a 1st Congressional District Democratic debate at the PBS Utah studios on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City on Monday, June 1, 2020.Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Cheek also noted the close results, saying her team will be watching as ballots continue to come in over the next couple of weeks. She touted Democrat turnout, saying there has been record-setting numbers.

“Democrats are heading into the general election stronger than ever and we are confident, despite the current uncertainty, that we will be the campaign to secure the nomination and flip this district in November,” Cheek said in a statement.