SALT LAKE CITY — The race to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz picked up speed Tuesday, with one Republican candidate drawing praise from a prominent family member — Ann Romney — and another turning in enough signatures to clinch a spot on the primary election ballot.

"As we now know, our country is in great need of good leadership and people with strong values," Romney said at a gathering hosted by candidate Stewart Peay in Cedar Hills.

Peay, who is married to Romney's niece, Misha, said his experience as an Iraq War veteran and his career as a litigator would make him a good fit to replace Chaffetz, the Utah Republican who is vacating his seat June 30.

Romney in a brief speech told Republican delegates and Peay supporters that the candidate is "extraordinarily bright and capable."

Also on Tuesday, candidate Tanner Ainge submitted 9,000 signatures to the lieutenant governor's office Monday — 2,000 more than needed to make the Aug. 15 primary. Elections officials still must verify the names before placing Ainge on the ballot.

"I am eager to now focus on the important issues facing our country and introducing myself and my conservative principles and positions to the people of this district,” said Ainge, the son of Boston Celtics president and former BYU basketball star Danny Ainge.

Verification of the signatures would ensure a Republican primary in August. Ainge is not formally participating in the state GOP nominating convention June 17. Convention delegates are expected to nominate one candidate among those taking that route to the ballot.

Ainge, an attorney and businessman, said he intends to talk to delegates "so they are fully aware of all of their options for the August primary."

The campaign will not stop gathering signatures until it gets confirmation from the lieutenant governor that it has met or exceeded the threshold, he said.

Ainge is among 20 candidates vying to replace Chaffetz. Only six declared their intent to collect signatures to secure a place in a primary election. Petitions are due to the lieutenant governor's office by noon Monday. Election officials will verify the signatures by June 16.