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Herrod wants to see updated results before conceding to Curtis

Chris Herrod huddles with supporters at a party to watch results in the Republican primary election for the 3rd Congressional District seat at the Entrata headquarters in Lehi on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017.
Chris Herrod huddles with supporters at a party to watch results in the Republican primary election for the 3rd Congressional District seat at the Entrata headquarters in Lehi on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah County won't be releasing any additional results in the 3rd Congressional District primary until Friday afternoon, and one of the two losing candidates won't concede until he sees them.

Provo Mayor John Curtis claimed victory in Tuesday's Republican primary after the Associated Press called the race and was congratulated on Twitter by President Donald Trump and many others, including Gov. Gary Herbert.

But while Alpine lawyer and political newcomer Tanner Ainge conceded to Curtis early in the evening, former state lawmaker Chris Herrod said he intends to wait until outstanding ballots have been counted, especially in Utah County.

"I've been inundated with calls," Utah County Clerk/Auditor Bryan Thompson said Wednesday, as his office scrambled to tally up how many 3rd District ballots are outstanding. "My patience is really thin."

Thompson said he was "a little bit frustrated" that he was unable to talk the wire service out of declaring a winner until Friday's tabulation was released.

"If someone prematurely pulled the trigger, they'll have to deal with those consequences," he said.

But Thompson also acknowledged that given how the election was trending, the winner might not change. Later Wednesday, Thompson announced he still had to count 33,602 ballots cast in the 3rd District.

That's more than the 25,300 votes already reported from Utah County and includes 2,653 provisional ballots cast on Election Day, including by unaffiliated voters joining the Republican Party to vote in the closed primary.

Utah County mistakenly sent GOP ballots to all 68,000 unaffiliated voters living in the district, creating confusion and sparking a push to get them to affiliate with the GOP at the polls.

Thompson said the big number of uncounted ballots is mostly due to voters waiting until Monday's deadline to send in their by-mail ballots, not his office's error in sending out the wrong ballots to unaffiliated voters.

"We would be in the same boat regardless of the error," he said. "This is just human nature. People are waiting until the last minute."

Herrod didn't sound optimistic about moving from his second-place finish in results released election night from the district that includes Carbon, Emery, Grand, San Juan and Wasatch counties, as well as parts of Utah and Salt Lake counties.

He told KSL Newsradio's Doug Wright on Wednesday that it looks like Curtis "is doing very well and probably will be the winner. I just think there's enough ballots out there, there's no harm in waiting until Friday when there's more of a final number."

Curtis said he understood.

"As a candidate, I get how hard this is," he told Wright on Wednesday. "I want to give Chris all the space he needs to get to the place he needs to be at, and I respect that. I don't think he should feel rushed at all."

Danny Laub, Curtis' campaign spokesman, later put out a statement declaring him the GOP nominee in the race for the remainder of former Rep. Jason Chaffetz's term. Chaffetz stepped down June 30 and is now a Fox News contributor.

Citing AP calling the election for Curtis, Laub said the "voters of Utah spoke loud and clear, and we believe that our lead will only continue to grow as ballots continue to be counted."

The Republican nominee will be on the November special election ballot along with Democrat Kathie Allen, a Cottonwood Heights physician, as well as several independent and third-party candidates.

Tuesday's election results pleased Rich McKeown, executive director of Count My Vote, the group behind an initiative to replace the traditional caucus and convention system for nominating candidates with direct primary elections.

The group reached a compromise with lawmakers known as SB54, which allows candidates to gather voter signatures for a place on the ballot rather than compete for the support of party delegates at a nominating convention.

Herrod was the delegates' choice for the Republican spot on the general election ballot, beating out Curtis and a number of other candidates. Curtis, however, also gathered voter signatures, as did Ainge.

McKeown said about 70 percent of the Republican voters "picked someone other than the delegates at the convention, so we really thought it was a very positive development for Count My Vote."

He said the alternative path to the ballot meant GOP voters had a choice in the special election.

"Had the Republican Party had its way, there would have been a single candidate and no primary," McKeown said.

Herrod, who backed the Utah GOP's lawsuit against the state seeking to stop SB54, said the primary election results may end up hurting the caucus and convention system.

"I don't think this bodes well for the caucus-convention system. I mean, I'll be very honest about that," he said. "People will continue to use it to say the caucus system might be out of touch."

Contributing: Ladd Egan