- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 27, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Social worker Lee Castillo has won the Democratic primary to challenge eight-term Republican Rep. Rob Bishop in November.

Castillo defeated businessman Kurt Weiland in Tuesday’s primary to become the Democratic nominee for Utah’s 1st Congressional District. The district runs across the northern part of the state.

Castillo is a gay Hispanic single father who has depicted himself as a voice for marginalized communities.

He said after the race was called Wednesday that his campaign will be reaching out to new voters as well as Republicans who have become frustrated with what he described as Bishop’s reluctance to criticize President Donald Trump.

“We’re going to be activating these populations that have not been voting, that have seen that Congressman Bishop does nothing to come out and speak against the president and his administration and their actions,” Castillo said.

He said his campaign would focus on environmental issues, health care and fair wages.

Weiland had touted his experience in the U.S. Army and in running a training and consulting firm.

The two men got into a heated confrontation over the placement of signs at the Davis County Democratic convention in April. Police were called but no charges were filed.

Castillo will be the underdog against Bishop. United Utah Party candidate Eric Eliason will also be on the ballot.

Bishop had more than $475,000 in his campaign account in April, according to financial disclosures. Eliason reported a war chest of $104,000. Castillo’s campaign reported earlier this month having less than $1,000.

In the 3rd Congressional District, U.S. Rep. John Curtis fended off a challenger in the Republican primary to take a huge step toward winning his first full term in Congress.

The 58-year-old former Provo mayor secured his nomination for re-election by beating businessman Chris Herrod by a wide margin.

Curtis will be favored in the general election as he seeks his first full term in November against Democrat college professor James Singer and United Utah Party candidate Melanie McCoard. Curtis’s district is heavily Republican and stretches from the suburbs of Salt Lake City to the state’s rural southeast corner.

Curtis entered office following a special election last year to replace Jason Chaffetz. Herrod had unsuccessfully challenged Curtis in that election as well.

Curtis said he’s looking forward to the November election and getting to the “finish line” as he spoke to reporters at an election night party in Orem hosted by fellow GOP primary night winner Mitt Romney, who is seeking to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch. He took photographs with voters as he celebrated his victory.

“I’m looking forward to having a full term,” Curtis said. “It’s hard to do things on that short cycle.”

Curtis, a former Democrat, has broken with the president on plans for a U.S.-Mexico border wall and the administration’s policy of separating families after illegal border crossings.

Hardliner Republicans criticized Curtis for his Democratic past and for taking the unpopular route of gathering voter signatures to ensure a spot in the primary, instead of trying to win the nomination solely by appealing to delegates at the party’s April convention. Curtis competed at the convention and came just 1.25 percentage points shy of winning the nomination outright at that event.

“This is one of the most conservative districts in the country, and I think it’s validation tonight that we’re well-aligned with them,” Curtis said.

Curtis said Herrod was “very gracious” in a phone call conceding the race, and that the two men “talked about finding areas where we could work together to help the Republican Party.”

Herrod, who touted himself to voters as a conservative pro-Trump alternative, acknowledged that the results show Curtis clearly has the backing of the state’s Republican Party.

“I told John (Curtis) that I’ll try to help him with my wing of the party. At the same time, if I have concerns, I’ll express them to him,” Herrod said.

The win marks two in a row for Curtis who won a three-way race last year to finish the term of Chaffetz, who is now a commentator on Fox News Channel. Chaffetz stepped down last year saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Curtis won a race in which he had a much deeper war chest than Herrod, raising $137,000 in the two months ahead of the election, according to Federal Election Commission disclosures. Herrod raised $7,500.

Utah Republicans running for re-election in the state’s three other U.S. House seats - Reps. Rob Bishop, Mia Love and Chris Stewart - won their nominations at the state party convention in April.


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