Some Salt Lake County delegates heavily favor Jon Huntsman Jr. in the upcoming governor's race, according to straw poll votes tallied Monday night.
More than 250 delegates cast their ballots in the unofficial poll, sponsored by the Holladay-Cottonwood Republican Club. In the first round of balloting, Huntsman took in 40 percent of the first-place votes.
Merit Medical founder and chief executive Fred Lampropoulos received 19 percent of the top votes, incumbent Gov. Olene Walker pulled in 14 percent and House Speaker Marty Speaker received 11 percent. The candidates garnered less than 10 percent.
Using the system that will be used in the state convention, in the final round of voting, Huntsman got 66 percent of the vote to Lampropolous' 34 percent. If those results were reflected in the May 8 convention, Huntsman would win the Salt Lake County Republican nomination.
In addition to participating in the straw poll, delegates heard eight of the nine gubernatorial hopefuls in a debate at the Salt Lake County Government Center. Walker did not participate. She made a brief appearance before the debate started, and offered a short statement before being whisked away to an awards presentation at the Jazz game.
With Democratic nominee Scott Matheson Jr. aiming to win the governor's seat, Huntsman said it is imperative the Republican party team up to maintain control of the governorship.
"We've got to keep this in Republican hands," Huntsman said. "We've got a great state, but it can be a whole lot better."
Candidates discussed the controversial SB175, which reversed portions of Initiative B, passed in 2000. The initiative made it illegal for police to keep the proceeds of asset forfeiture a civil court process that allows law enforcement agencies to seize and sell the property of convicted criminals.
Walker signed the bill into law, a move all eight candidates questioned.
House Speaker Marty Stephens, R-Farr West, said he would have vetoed the bill. "The rights of the citizens in this area were decreased by the passage of that bill," he said.Huntsman called the bill's passage by lawmakers "the height of arrogance," considering the initiative passed with 69 percent of the vote in 2002.