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By LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A competitive four-way contest for the GOP nomination in the Utah governor’s race ended Tuesday as the final mail-in ballots were sent on their way.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and ex-U.S. Russia Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. are considered the moderate front-runners in the GOP race.

Ex-House speaker Greg Hughes has gained on the right as he called for a quicker reopening during the coronavirus pandemic and Thomas Wright has positioned himself as the race’s outsider.

Huntsman has touted his international experience while Cox has the backing of incumbent Gov. Gary Herbert, who isn’t running again. The election was conducted entirely by mail due to the pandemic.

An unusual number of Democratic and independent voters crossed party lines to register as Republicans so they could participate in the closed primary, including ex-Democrat Sara Barnett, who works at a community clinic in Salt Lake City’s Sugar House neighborhood.

“I voted Republican so I could vote in this primary election just to use my voice,” said Barnett, who voted for Huntsman. “It was a little abnormal given the party change, but I feel like there were a lot of good candidates, and it was nice to be able to exercise my right to vote.”

Meanwhile, Republicans also chose a candidate to challenge the state’s lone congressional Democrat and decided whether to keep the incumbent state attorney general as their nominee.

In northern Utah, voters made their choices in the wide-open race to replace retiring longtime GOP U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop.

Results were expected to begin posting two hours after polls close, though the final outcomes will likely take longer since most county clerks will be putting ballots in quarantine for 24 hours to prevent coronavirus infection, said state elections director Justin Lee.

Here’s a look at the other races on the ballot:

— Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams is considered one of the country’s most vulnerable people in Congress after his narrow 2018 victory. Four Republicans want to challenge him in the suburban Salt Lake City district: State Rep. Kim Coleman, ex-NFL player Burgess Owens, nonprofit CEO Trent Christensen and ex-radio host Jay McFarland, who has pitched himself as a moderate.

— Meanwhile, voters of both parties in the GOP-dominated 1st District in northern Utah will be voting in primaries. On the Republican side, Blake Moore is ahead in the fundraising race despite a late entry. He’s up against Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt, who drew fire by allowing a concert during the pandemic. Ex-Utah Agricultural Commissioner Kerry Gibson and Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson are also courting voters. Democrats Jamie Cheek and Darren Parry are facing off for their party’s nod.

— Republican Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is also facing a primary challenge from David Leavitt, the top prosecutor in Utah County who’s been focused on criminal justice reform. The winner of that contest will face Democratic defense attorney Greg Skordas.

__

Sophia Eppolito contributed to this story. Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Idaho Prosecutors Question Governor's Plan for Federal Funds

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — Prosecutors from more than half of Idaho’s counties questioned whether Gov. Brad Little’s plan to use $200 million in federal aid for property tax relief is legal under the federal coronavirus aid package.

Prosecutors in 16 counties signed a letter that asks Little’s office to request a legal opinion from the U.S. Treasury Department and the Idaho attorney general's office before proceeding with the plan, The Times-News reported Friday.

The letter was written by Latah County prosecuting attorney William W. Thompson Jr. and chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney Bradley J. Rudley. It contends that the governor’s plan “does not appear to meet legal requirements” of the federal rescue package.

Little’s plan would send $200 million to participating cities and counties to cover public health personnel salaries on the condition that savings are passed to property taxpayers as a credit on their 2021 tax bill.

As part of the deal, cities and counties cannot increase their property tax budgets by the allowed 3% next year or use any forgone balance from previous years.

The letter from the county prosecutors questions whether Little’s plan to conditionally distribute the money complies with the federal government’s regulations. It also asserts Little's plan does not meet the requirement for equitable treatment between local governments and would “disproportionately affect rural counties.”

“While some local governments do not need the 3% increase this year, many do,” the letter said. “This further creates an inequitable situation for property taxpayers in those counties which need the increases to provide their services year after year.”

Little’s press secretary Marissa Morrison told the Times-News that the program is optional and their office was “a little taken aback” by the letter from counties.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tags: Idaho

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