- Associated Press - Monday, August 14, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A primary contest between three Republicans running for a Utah congressional seat held by Jason Chaffetz has tightened ahead of Tuesday’s election, the winner of which is expected to cruise to victory in November’s special election.

Republicans outnumber Democrats five-to-one in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, which Chaffetz held before resigning this summer, citing a desire to be with his family.

Chaffetz was known for his aggressive investigations as House Oversight chairman of Democrat Hillary Clinton but faced pressure in his final months in office to investigate President Donald Trump.

His resignation left a coveted open congressional seat generally considered a safe bet for the GOP, and it initially attracted more than 20 candidates.

Boyd Matheson, a veteran Utah Republican strategist who runs the Sutherland Institute, says Provo Mayor John Curtis was leading early on but the race has tightened.

Utah’s two-tiered candidate nominating system narrowed to three Republicans - Curtis, former lawmaker Chris Herrod and business consultant Tanner Ainge.

A look at the Republican candidates vying in Tuesday’s primary election:

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JOHN CURTIS

Curtis has served eight years as the mayor of Provo, where he helped negotiate a deal for Google to take over the city’s troubled fiber-optic system and instead give the city of about 117,000 people the company’s high-speed Google Fiber internet service, including free basic internet for all residents.

Curtis, 57, earned the rare endorsement of Utah’s Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, who doesn’t usually throw his support in inter-party contests. Herbert said he found negative attacks by Ainge and Herrod’s campaigns off-putting.

Curtis faced criticism and suspicion from his opponents and some GOP voters for having served as the chair of the Utah County Democratic Party and for his 2000 campaign as a Democratic candidate for the state Legislature.

Curtis, who switched his party registration to the Republican Party in 2006, points out that Ronald Reagan, Trump and Chaffetz were all Democrats at one point. He identifies today as a conservative Republican.

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TANNER AINGE

Ainge, an Alpine business consultant, is a Brigham Young University graduate who worked for an investment fund and as an attorney for a health care firm. He’s never run for office and has marketed himself as a private-sector, political outsider, but he’s been criticized for having been too outside - he only moved to Utah in November, having lived in California last year.

Ainge said he’s always wanted to raise his family in Utah.

His father Danny Ainge is remembered in the state as a former BYU basketball star who went on to play in the NBA, where he’s now the president of the Boston Celtics. The elder Ainge has lent support to his son - appearing at a fundraiser - and he and his wife have contributed $250,000 to a superPAC backing his son and attacking the other candidates.

Tanner Ainge was endorsed by former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who said he understands the economy and is a patriot who “exudes common sense.”

Ainge says his experience evaluating businesses will help him scrutinize the U.S. government’s budget for waste and to cut spending and the deficit.

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CHRIS HERROD

Herrod has cited his time living and working in Russia and Ukraine in the 1990s, along with the experiences of his Ukrainian wife growing up in the Soviet Union, for giving him a familiarity with international affairs and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He says Putin is a “chess player” who has distracted Democrats and the media into focusing on Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and any possible collusion with Trump associates. “He’s got to be happy that we’re distracted and not talking about the real issues,” Herrod said.

Herrod, 51, is a home loan officer in Provo who served five years in Utah’s Legislature, where he was known for his strict immigration views, including a proposal to punish businesses with workers who were in the U.S. illegally and a fight against a Republican guest-worker proposal. He helped run Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign in Utah but went on to support Trump and speak at a Trump rally.


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