State Sen. Mike Kennedy was called the winner of the 3rd Congressional District Republican primary just over an hour after polls closed Tuesday night.

Rep. John Curtis, who currently represents the 3rd Congressional District, is vacating his seat to run for the U.S. Senate.

There were five Republicans vying to replace him — Kennedy, state auditor John Dougall, entrepreneur Case Lawrence, commercial litigator Stewart Peay and Roosevelt Mayor JR Bird — competed in a tight race.

With 72% of the votes in, Kennedy was in the lead with 36%, Lawrence had 23%, Bird with 17%, Peay at 15% and Dougall at 9% as The Associated Press called the race in favor of Kennedy.

Donning “I Like Dr. Mike” shirts and red, white and blue, Kennedy supporters applauded as the early results showed Kennedy ahead. “A heartfelt thank you to my campaign team, all our supporters and everyone who voted for us,” Kennedy said. “Your faith in our vision for Utah and restoring America is what brought us here tonight.

“Friends, what an amazing state and country we live in. I grew up dirt poor as a first-generation American — to go from that to being a doctor and an attorney, owning a business, serving our great state in the legislature, and now becoming the Republican nominee to represent Utah in Congress is truly a testament to the power and promise of America.”

Lawrence thanked his family and supporters for all their campaign efforts. “It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience to travel across the state with my wife, Kerri, and visit with so many Utahns. I congratulate Mike Kennedy and look forward to supporting him as the Republican nominee. I am confident he will be strong representative for Utah. I want to express my admiration for all the other candidates in this memorable race as well — JR Bird, John Dougall and Stewart Peay. I believe, as many Utah politicos have mentioned, that this was one of the strongest congressional primary fields we have ever seen in Utah. I am proud to have been part of this exceptional field and I commend my opponents for their dedication, integrity and friendship. I have learned from each of them; and our state and our party are better off because of their campaigns.”

Bird called running for Congress “a truly humbling experience. I want to thank my wife, family, friends and supporters for the countless hours spent on my behalf. I wish our nominee Mike Kennedy the very best and he can count on my support.”

Peay wished Kennedy well representing “what I believe is the greatest district in our state. I am proud of our effort and am greatly appreciative of every voter, volunteer, and donor who supported me.”

After the election was called for Kennedy, Sen. Mike Lee, who endorsed Kennedy in the race, said, “Mike Kennedy belongs in Congress, and I’m glad that Republicans in Utah’s Third District agree.”

“Washington is so broken that we need doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and legislators to put our Republic together again—fortunately, Mike is all of these! I can’t wait to defend freedom with him on Capitol Hill after he sails to victory in November,” said Lee.

Shortly after Curtis announced his decision to run for Senate in January, the field crowded with candidates. At the Utah Republican state convention in April, nine candidates appeared on the delegate ballot; after six rounds of voting, Kennedy won with 61.5% of delegate support.

Four other candidates — Lawrence, Dougall, Bird and Peay — each qualified for the primary ballot by gathering signatures.

“The primary may be over, but our work to make America and Utah stronger is just beginning,” said Kennedy after being declared the winner. “We remain committed to securing our border and keeping our families safe, tackling inflation, reining in Washington, and protecting our freedoms. Most importantly, we remain focused on ensuring that every part of our diverse district has a voice.Thank you once again for your trust and support. Together, let’s move forward to victory in November and make Washington work for the American people again.”

At convention, Kennedy referenced his voting record in the state legislature against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and a bill he introduced to ban transgender surgeries for Utah minors.

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

Bird touted his background as a rural mayor and business owner.

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

Dougall said that Washington wastes billions of dollars and too many families can’t afford to buy homes and put gas in their cases. He pitched himself as the candidate committed to fiscal responsibility and big ideas to save the country.

Bringing his family on stage, Peay’s daughter said she was ready to share her dad with Utah because he could do the job well. Peay said career politicians fall short of the examples set by the Founding Fathers and he was the right kind of leader due to his military and legal background.

Lawrence said he’s a lifelong conservative who was frustrated with the progressive left and also with the drama in Congress. He said he would fight to bring order to the southern border and fix the broken entitlement system.

The five candidates participated in a debate in June, discussing their positions on foreign policy, energy, the economy and other issues. All five candidates agreed to follow Curtis’ lead on clean energy: Curtis, as the founding chair of the Conservative Climate Caucus in the U.S. House, made conservation a key focus of his tenure.

“We shouldn’t leave this topic to the Democrats to control,” said Dougall. “I think with our free market approaches we have a much better way to address not only our environmental concerns but having better energy policy for Americans.”

Kennedy said Curtis has led Utah to be at the table on these issues rather than on the menu. “We need to unleash energy dominance and also work on clean air and water, which we can do in Utah and in the United States of America.”

Candidates found themselves at odds on financial support for Ukraine.

When asked if they would have voted for a recent bill that would have given Ukraine military and humanitarian support, Bird and Dougall said they would have voted no. Kennedy said he would need to read the bill first before giving his answer while Lawrence and Peay said they would have voted for it.

“We need strength and deterrence on the world stage, a strong American presence,” said Lawrence. “Part of that formula for a strong American presence is supporting our allies abroad.”

Bird said the Biden administration was not transparent about the funding going to Ukraine and that made him hesitant to offer his support for the measure.

The candidates also differed on the issue of abortion. Bird, Dougall and Peay said the issue should be left to the states to decide their laws while Lawrence and Kennedy said they were open to a federal ban on abortion.


During the final moments of the debate and the media conference afterward, candidates pointed out what made they different from one another. Dougall, who has billboards around town saying he’s mainstream not MAGA, was critical of the direction of the party.

Peay called out Lawrence for not growing up in the state of Utah like Peay had while Bird said Kennedy’s voting record was too soft on immigration.

During the race, both Sens. Lee and Mitt Romney made endorsements. Romney endorsed Peay and Lee endorsed Kennedy.

The winner of the GOP primary will face Glenn J. Wright, the Democratic Party nominee, a former Summit County Council member, in the Nov. 5 general election. Wright ran against Curtis in 2022.

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