State Sen. Mike Kennedy wins 3rd Congressional District GOP nomination

By Brigham Tomco & Hanna Seariac, Deseret News | Published: April 27, 2024, 9:39 p.m. MDT

State Sen. Mike Kennedy won the crowded 3rd Congressional District Republican Party convention nomination on Saturday after six rounds of voting.

Kennedy, who received 61.5% in the final round, will advance to the GOP primary election on June 25 as the official party nominee. Utah Young Republicans chairman Zac Wilson, a convention-only candidate like Kennedy, came in second with 38.5% and was eliminated from the race.

Kennedy will appear on the primary ballot along with four candidates who qualified via signature gathering.

With Rep. John Curtis launching a Senate campaign in January, Utah’s 3rd District became an open seat for the first time in seven years. Nine Republicans jumped in the race despite the shortened timeline for fundraising and delegate outreach.

Kennedy, a state senator who won among delegates against Sen. Mitt Romney in 2018, scored a large plurality of votes in the first round, with 36% of the vote. The next highest vote getter in the first round of voting was Roosevelt Mayor JR Bird, who netted 18%. The other seven candidates all had below 10%.

Kennedy’s message emphasized his conservative voting record in the state legislature and his commitment to delegates as one of three convention-only candidates seeking a path to the June 25 GOP primary.

“Unite behind me, a convention-only candidate. The rest of these candidates gathered signatures, or tried to. They don’t need your vote, I do,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy, a family physician in Utah County, touted the bill he introduced at the state Capitol to ban transgender surgeries for Utah children and teens as well as his votes against COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

“Our country needs real solutions. It’s time for Washington to stop complaining and pointing fingers. And it’s beyond time to solve these problems,” Kennedy said.

After the third round of voting, two candidates — former state lawmaker Chris Herrod and state auditor John “Frugal” Dougall — endorsed Wilson. The subsequent boost in support carried Wilson to a second-place finish — strengthened by Bird’s endorsement after the fifth round.

Wilson emphasized his familiarity with fiscal issues and his ability to connect with young voters to counter a growing progressive movement among American youth.

“It’s time to send a young conservative voice back to Washington, D.C.,” Wilson said. “One of the candidates in this race recently said ‘I view Zac Wilson as the future of this party.’ … And to you the delegates I say, the future is now.”

Before endorsing Wilson, Bird highlighted his varied background as a rural mayor, business owner and agricultural producer. He has already qualified for the primary ballot after gathering 7,000 signatures and investing more than $1 million of his own money.

“Are you tired of people in Massachusetts and Vermont telling us to how to live our lives and how to use our lands in Utah?” Bird said. “Send Washington ‘the bird.’”

In addition to Bird, Dougall, Sky Zone founder Case Lawrence and commercial litigator Stewart Peay have already qualified for the primary via signature gathering.

Five candidates will now appear on the primary ballot to represent the sprawling 3rd District which includes south Salt Lake County, most of Utah County and all of eastern Utah.

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