Mike Terry, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Strong Republican turnout at the polls cut into the lead of Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, over challenger Morgan Philpot.
However, as of 9 p.m., Dan Jones & Associates projected that Matheson would win, based on exit polls.
Pollster Randy Shumway said earlier Tuesday evening that Matheson was leading by 8 to 10 points in most polls coming into Election Day, but exit polling had his lead at about 1 percentage point as polls were closing Tuesday.
"What you saw was a very strong Republican momentum," Shumway said. "There's certainly anxiety towards what's occurring on the federal level."
He said that anxiety, represented in many ways by the continuing strength of the tea party movement, also led to high overall turnout for the mid-term election. While voter turnout for such elections in the past has been in the 38 percent to 44 percent range in Utah, Tuesday's turnout was expected to approach 55 percent.
The same Republican momentum that gave Matheson some anxious moments cut into a similar 8- to 10-point pre-election lead for Democrat Sim Gill, who was challenging incumbent GOP District Attorney Lohra Miller. Still, Dan Jones exit polling projected that Gill would win by about 3 percent.
Republicans who already had been leading in the polls saw their support bolstered by the strong turnout. For example, exit polls showed incumbent Gov. Gary Herbert led his Democratic challenger, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, by a tally of 64 percent to 32 percent.
In other races, exit polls showed Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, was 39 points in front of Democrat Morgan Bowen, while Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, was 50 points ahead of Republican-turned-Democrat Karen Hyer. In the U.S. Senate race, Republican Mike Lee had a 31-point lead over Democrat Sam Granato.
Bucking the trend, Democratic Sheriff Jim Winder continued to lead his Republican opponent, Beau Babka, by 56 percent to 44 percent in the exit polls.
Polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Updated results will be posted on deseretnews.com throughout the night as they become available.
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