In about three weeks, local Republicans and Democrats will hold their state conventions to nominate federal and statewide candidates for the June 25 primary election. Of course, this has political tongues wagging. We impart what we are hearing regarding the U.S. Senate and congressional races.

The GOP contest to replace retiring Sen. Mitt Romney is becoming heated, as predicted. National political action committees and high-profile conservatives are promoting their favorites, while candidates are crisscrossing the state appealing to GOP activists and voters. Republican convention delegates will choose among Congressman John Curtis, former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, attorney Brent Hatch, Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs, businessmen Jason Walton and Chandler Tanner, communications consultant Carolyn Phippen, accountant Josh Randall, and others. Democrats will select from environmental activist Caroline Gleich, equipment operator Archie Williams and biologist Laird Fetzer Hamblin. There has not been a public poll since January, so is there any “conventional wisdom” about this contest?

Pignanelli: “So two cheers for democracy: one because it admits variety and two because it permits criticism.” — E. M. Forster. I am always amused when activists from both parties declare democracy is on the verge of extinction. The vigorous contesting in this election season again documents our republic is strong.

Curtis, Wilson and Walton will likely be on the June 25 primary ballot through signatures (the other “declared” candidates have not submitted anything to date). This week, Curtis still leads the pack of contenders. But will his other competitors top the list from convention delegates? Staggs is benefiting from the endorsements provided by famous acolytes of former President Donald Trump. Hatch surprised everyone with a strong showing in the polls, and the recent infusion of resources from conservative PACs is impressing activists.

Trump’s victory in the presidential preference poll suggests a strong right tilt among delegates, which favors a Staggs and/or Hatch (or another ultra conservative) for a nod to the primary ballot.

The energetic, charismatic Gleich seems to enjoy the momentum among Democrats and may possibly avoid a primary.

Despite the gloomy warnings, democracy is very much alive.

Webb: With so many solid, credible candidates, the GOP Senate nomination race is very difficult to predict. Each candidate is seeking a “lane” to a primary election win. It’s likely two candidates will emerge from the state convention and will claim the party’s imprimatur. However, the convention favorite has often lost in the primary election when all Republicans get to vote, not just delegates.

A number of candidates will gather signatures to get on the ballot, so primary voters will have a number of choices. It’s entirely possible the primary victor will not win a majority of votes.

Curtis, as an incumbent congressman, is the best known candidate and is strong among mainstream Republicans. Hatch, the son of former Sen. Orrin Hatch, has ready-made name ID. Staggs is clearly trying to define himself as the “ultra-MAGA” Trumpian candidate with endorsements from an assortment of far-right politicians, some of whom are election deniers and obstructionists.

Wilson got a head start, has raised a lot of money, has solid endorsements and has been hitting the airwaves. Outside PACs are weighing in with TV spots.

It will really come down to hard work and smart strategy. The candidate who has the best ground game, who personally contacts the most voters, who has a superior get-out-the-vote effort, will win. An upset is certainly possible.

The 3rd Congressional District vacancy left by Curtis’ departure has prompted another heated battle. State Sen. Mike Kennedy, State Auditor John Dougall, businessman Case Lawrence, attorney Stewart Peay, veteran Lucky Bovo, Vernal Mayor JR Bird and party activist Kathryn Dahlin will be vying for delegate support. What is the scuttlebutt on this one?

Pignanelli: Lawrence has qualified for the primary through signatures, as may Dougall and Bird. Kennedy won the convention in the 2018 senate contest and could repeat this achievement six years later. Dougall is popular with delegates and could also receive the nod. This creates a tight avenue for the other candidates, but anything is possible.

Webb: With a “frugal” reputation, and having already won statewide office, Dougall has to be considered the favorite. But a number of attractive candidates are in the race. Who’s gonna work the hardest?

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Will Utah’s remaining congressional incumbents (Blake Moore, Celeste Maloy, Burgess Owens) face strong challenges in the convention?

Pignanelli: Moore has qualified for the primary ballot through signatures. Will delegates acknowledge his growing prominence in Congress and not push him into a primary? Owens does not have a Republican opponent this year. Maloy is fresh from her special election victory in November but is wisely not discounting a challenge from military veteran and inspirational speaker Colby Jenkins.

Webb: Despite some interesting races, all three incumbents should be OK if they work extremely hard and don’t take anything for granted.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a former journalist and a semi-retired small farmer and political consultant. Email: Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser who served as a Democrat in the Utah state Legislature. Email:

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