We have seen a spate of US House member retirements since the beginning of November, and this week's announcement brings us another.
Rep. John Curtis* (R-UT) officially joining the open Senate field in the Beehive State means the number of open House seats in the 50 states grows to 40. The number of House members running for the Senate now totals an even dozen. A thirteenth retiring member, Rep. Wiley Nickel (D-NC), announced that he will run for the Senate in 2026.
In a bit of a surprise, attorney and former George W. Bush White House aide Brent Orrin Hatch (R), son of the late seven-term Sen. Orrin Hatch (R), announced that he, too, will run for what was his father’s seat for almost half a century. All of the Senate candidates will be vying to succeed retiring Sen. Mitt Romney (R).
Already in the race are seven Republicans including former state House Speaker Brad Wilson, and local mayors Trent Skaggs and Rod Bird, Jr. Others, such as Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, former state Representative and US House and Senate candidate Becky Edwards, and Republican National Committeeman Brad Bonham are still considered possible candidates.
The eventual Republican nominee becomes the prohibitive favorite in the November election. The last Democrat to win a Senate election in Utah is former Sen. Frank Moss, who was re-elected more than 50 years ago in 1970.
Utah features a party nominating convention. The participating delegates compete to receive 40% of the delegate votes. Those who do automatically advance into the June 25th primary election. Others can access the ballot through the petition process. For statewide candidates, 28,000 signatures from registered voters are required to obtain a ballot line.
The Utah Republican Convention is scheduled for April 27th. It is likely that Rep. Curtis will be one of the candidates who petitions onto the ballot. A former Democrat, Mr. Curtis did not secure a ballot line from the district party convention when he ran in the 2017 special election for the House. Petitioning onto the ballot, Mr. Curtis was able to then win the special primary and went onto secure four landslide victories in subsequent 3rd District general elections.
That being the case, the nominating convention is likely to produce two primary contenders, while several others, including Rep. Curtis, should be able to petition onto the primary ballot.
With Rep. Curtis leaving the House seat, three Republicans immediately jumped into the newly open 3rd District race. State Senator and physician Mike Kennedy (R-Cedar Hills), who formed a congressional exploratory committee in December when it appeared that Rep. Curtis might move into the Senate race, is the early leading candidate. Also running are accountant Tate Howell and businessman Case Lawrence.
More are expected to enter, specifically state Auditor John Dougall who just announced he would not seek re-election to his current position. Ex-state Representative and congressional candidate Chris Herrod and former congressional candidate Bruce Hough are also potential open seat GOP candidates.
The 3rd District occupies Utah’s eastern sector stretching from Salt Lake City and the Wyoming border south along the Colorado border to Arizona. The seat contains eight counties and parts of three others, including 22% of Salt Lake County, the state’s largest population center.
The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates UT-3 as R+26, and former President Donald Trump defeated President Joe Biden here, 57-38%, so the eventual Republican nominee becomes the clear favorite to hold the seat in November.
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