SANDY — Utah's three Republican Congressmen easily won their party's nomination at the GOP State Convention Saturday, as did Mia Love in her second bid for the 4th District seat held by Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson.
Love's 2012 race against Matheson, who is not seeking re-election, attracted national attention and earned the then-Saratoga Springs mayor a coveted speaking spot at the Republican National Convention.
Love secured a spot on this November's ballot by defeating retired businessman Bob Fuehr with the support of more than 78 percent of the delegates in the new district that includes much of western Salt Lake and Utah counties.
"This process makes you better," Love told reporters. "It would have been nice to not have a Republican challenger, but I don't think I came out of this thing damaged. I think, I know, we came out stronger."
Love answered, "Who?" when asked how she differed from Doug Owens, the candidates Democrats nominated at their convention Saturday in the 4th District race.
"I don't know him," she said. "I'm a Republican, and he's a Democrat."
Love said this election is different from her 2012 run.
"We have more resources in the bank, and we're going to continue to do that," she said. "We're not running from behind any more."
Fuehr said he will "of course" support Love's campaign. He had urged delegates to buck party insiders and back him. "They don't want me," Fuehr told the nearly 3,800 Republican delegates gathered at the South Towne Expo Center.
After getting just over 21 percent of the vote, Fuehr told a reporter that "maybe the mountain was just too high to climb. With the GOP coming in on her side, it was just a high hurdle to overcome."
Love told the delegates she would battle "that Godzilla we call the federal government" and asked them to run with her toward the challenge.
"Let's finish the race we started," she said.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden congratulated Love in a prepared statement. "With Jim Matheson's retirement, Republicans are poised to pick up this congressional seat and there is no better candidate to lead the charge than Mia Love," he said.
GOP Reps. Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart all had well over the 60 percent of the vote needed to avoid a primary election in June. Chaffetz won with a whopping 87 percent, Bishop with 81 percent, and Stewart had 68 percent.
In other contested races, Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, faces a primary in Senate District 28 against former state Sen. Casey Anderson after Anderson failed to get the GOP nomination by a single vote.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox nominated Vickers, calling him a strong voice for rural Utah. Anderson stressed his opposition to the legislative compromise on the Count My Vote initiative that gives candidates an alternative to the caucus and convention system.
"The Legislature caved," Anderson said, telling the delegates from Beaver, Iron and Washington counties to "send a message to the Legislature today that our vote is not for sale."
The delegates gave Anderson 86 votes to 59 for Vickers, but 87 votes were needed to reach the 60 percent threshold required to avoid a primary election.
In House District 69, Roosevelt car dealer Bill Labrum secured the party's nomination after beating both Rep. Jerry Anderson, R-Price, and former Rep. Christine Watkins, who had held the seat as a Democrat.
The other incumbent lawmakers with races that ended up at the state convention because they involve more than one county were all nominated Saturday.
Sens. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, and Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal; and Reps. Mel Brown, R-Coalville, and Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, will all be on the November ballot.
GOP delegates also endorsed resolutions supporting taking back public lands, partisan school board elections and fighting the legislative compromise on Count My Vote that created an alternative path to the primary ballot for candidates.
Republican GOP Chairman James Evans responded cryptically to delegate concerns about the party's response.
"We have strategies which we will not disclose because we could compromise them," Evans said.
One delegate also took issue with a full-page ad in the convention program from Equality Utah, an advocacy organization for the state's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.
Evans said it wasn't the party's place to "be a censor. This is America."
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