SALT LAKE CITY — Republican voters in the 3rd Congressional District will likely have three candidates — possibly a first in Utah politics — to choose from in the August primary election in the race to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz.
Provo Mayor John Curtis on Monday turned in 15,525 signatures, more than twice the 7,000 needed to get on the GOP primary ballot. Volunteers collected about half the names, while Curtis paid signature gatherers for the rest.
"We’ve gone over the top with some professional help just because we know they have to validate every signature," he told supporters, tapping on a box of petitions he called his "insurance policy."
Republican Tanner Ainge, an Alpine attorney, submitted 9,000 signatures last week.
State elections officials intend to verify the names and certify the candidates who collected signatures by Friday. Both Ainge and Curtis are expected to qualify for the primary ballot.
None of the four other candidates who declared their intent to gather signatures — two Republicans and two Democrats — submitted petitions before Monday's noon deadline. That means there won't be a primary election in the Democratic Party.
One unaffiliated candidate, Sean Whalen, of Draper, turned in the 300 signatures needed to get on the general election ballot. Those names were verified by county clerks before being submitted.
The Republican and Democratic parties will hold conventions Saturday to nominate candidates, and both will choose one nominee under special election rules.
Three Democrats — Kathie Allen, Ben Frank and Carl Ingwell — are vying for their party's nomination.
Neither Curtis nor Ainge are likely to win the Republican nomination at the convention. State Sens. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, and Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, and Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, appear to be the front-runners among GOP delegates.
"We know that’s not my strength," Curtis said of the convention. "That's why we did the signatures, but we've also found a really great reception" in meetings with delegates.
Whoever comes out of convention would join Ainge and Curtis in the Republican primary Aug. 15, setting up an unprecedented election with three candidates on the ballot. Only registered Republicans may vote in the primary.
"I can't think of a time when there was more than two (candidates) on a primary ballot," said Mark Thomas, state elections director.
In that scenario, a candidate could win the GOP primary with less than 50 percent of the vote.
Although candidates have successfully collected signatures for the primary, there hasn't been more than one for any given office since the Utah Legislature changed the state's nomination process several years ago.
The controversial law allows candidates to get on the primary election ballot through Utah's traditional caucus and convention system or by collecting the requisite number of signatures for a particular office, creating the possibility of more than two candidates making the primary.
The state called the special election after Chaffetz, R-Utah, announced this spring that he was stepping down June 30, six months into his fifth term.
Jim Bennett of the new United Utah Party did not submit signatures as an unaffiliated candidate as he earlier suggested he might do. The state elections office rejected his candidate application last month because the United Utah Party had not been certified as a qualified political party.
Bennett is mounting a legal challenge to get on the ballot under his party's banner.