Tuesday night brought the contentious Republican primary between incumbent Gov. Spencer Cox and challenger Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, to a close.

Cox was ahead of Lyman, 59.5%-40.5% with 64% of the votes counted, when The Associated Press called the race at 8:23 p.m.

“Tonight, we restored our faith in the Republican Party and our faith in the people of Utah,” Cox said at his primary election night party in Salt Lake City. “They don’t respond to the lies, to the made-up conspiracy theories. We do things the right way in Utah, and I’m just so proud.”

After Lyman heard the AP had called the race he said, “It’s not fair to do that 30 minutes after the polls close.” He said they’re still watching the results come in.

To his crowd of a few hundred supporters, Lyman said he would not concede the election until the results were verified and his attorneys are looking into putting together a lawsuit over the visibility of Cox’s signatures.

“It’s not an issue of me having sour grapes or not seeing reality, it’s me wanting to see reality and Utahns want to, too,” said Lyman.

Responding to Lyman not conceding, Cox said to KSL NewsRadio, “Conceding doesn’t mean the votes don’t count, that’s not a thing. I can tell you if he had lost by five points, I would have called and graduated him. That’s how we roll, that’s how we do things.”

The battle between the two Republicans grew contentious at times, as the Lyman campaign levied several accusations against Cox, most recently related to the signatures he gathered to get on the primary ballot, and earlier about Cox’s treatment of migrants who entered the country. None of the allegations have held up under scrutiny.

Related
Has ICE dysfunction made Utah a sanctuary state for migrants?

The mood was jubilant at the joint party held for Cox and Utah Attorney General candidate Derek Brown as both candidates won their respective primaries.

Supporters wearing green and yellow as well as red, white and blue applauded loudly as Cox walked into the room after The Associated Press called the election for Cox. The party was held at an outdoor patio in the heart of Salt Lake City.

The Brown family sang the national anthem to the crowd after the results of the election were announced.

Sen. Mike Lee congratulated Cox on his win.

“Congratulations to Gov. Cox on his primary win today, which is sure to usher in his second term leading our great state,” said Lee. “I look forward to continue work with Gov. Cox to help Utah families on issues like housing, natural resources, and lowering the cost of living, and I have no doubt that he will keep our wonderful home the best place to live in America.”

Republican Governors Association Chairman and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee also congratulated Cox on his win. From historic tax relief to increasing education opportunities for students, Governor Cox has delivered significant results for Utah, and we look forward to his next four years as governor as he continues to keep Utah strong.”

Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, who Cox will face in the general election, issued a statement congratulating Cox on winning the Republican primary and criticizing his record on the economy.

“Utahns deserve a Governor who doesn’t just talk about better politics but actually delivers for everyday people,” said King. “Utahns deserve common-sense leadership that is focused on results and public good, not rhetoric and special interests.”

4 candidates challenged Cox in GOP primary

At the start of the election, five Republican candidates filed to run for Utah governor, including Cox. After the convention, the field narrowed as Carson Jorgensen, Scott Robbins and Sylvia Fisk failed to win enough votes to get on the ballot. Lyman ended up receiving 67.5% of the vote, which earned him his place as the official Utah GOP gubernatorial nominee.

Cox and his running mate Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson got on the ballot by collecting signatures.

At convention, Lyman referenced his background in state government and expressed confidence in his campaign.

“I’ve been a county commissioner for eight years in San Juan County. I’ve been in the Legislature for six years. I’ve run a successful CPA firm,” said Lyman. “I have the resources to run the primary election, primary campaign. I have the most wonderful volunteers, grassroots people, on the planet. We’ve got the support. We can do this.”

Cox touted his accomplishments from his first term in office and responded to the rowdy response from some conventiongoers.

“Maybe you’re upset that I signed the largest tax cut in Utah history. Maybe you hate that I signed constitutional carry. Maybe you hate that I signed the most pro-life legislation in Utah history,” said Cox. “Maybe you hate that I sent troops to the border. Maybe you hate the 60 lawsuits we filed against President Biden in this administration. Maybe you hate that we stopped DEI and ESG and CRT.”

“Or maybe it’s something much more simple. Maybe you hate that I don’t hate enough,” said Cox.

Related
Washington County attorney says no evidence of a candidate acting inappropriately in signature gathering

As the campaign stretched on, the Cox team focused its messaging on what the governor had done during his first term, including delivering the largest tax cut in Utah history and leading efforts on litigation and legislation to protect children from the harms of social media.

Lyman, who chose Natalie Clawson as his running mate, pitched himself as a candidate who could tackle federal overreach. He messaged concentrating on the impact of immigration on the state and leading efforts to take back land from the federal government.

Related
Utah GOP debate: Gov. Cox and Rep. Lyman stick to policies, sidestep attacks

The two candidates appeared side-by-side at a debate hosted by the Utah Debate Commission. The debate was moderate in tone and absent of the expected fireworks.

During the debate, Lyman said he would do more to address illegal immigration in the state than the current administration and was also critical of the administration’s approach for water management.

“Our policies make us a magnet for illegal immigration, you can see by the numbers,” Lyman said. “And not only that, our policies make us a magnet for non-citizens with criminal intent because of the way that we treat the retention of illegals. We’ve got to take more aggressive stance.”

While addressing media after the debate, Lyman was critical of Cox saying he did not take bold enough stances on immigration and transgenderism.

“We see things very differently,” said Lyman. “I’m a bottom-up kind of power dynamic person. Cox is very much a top-down power dynamic person. I think the comparison is stark.”

Cox referenced bills he signed on tax cuts, abortion and school choice in addition to speaking about the work he’s doing on housing. He said he hopes to continue to make housing more affordable in the state.

“This is the single most important issue in our state,” Cox said. “This past session, we worked tirelessly with legislators to pass the most comprehensive housing reform in the United States.”

310
Comments

After the debate, Cox was critical of Lyman’s rhetoric throughout the campaign. “Campaigns bring out the worst in people,” he said. “We’ve certainly seen that with my opponent’s campaign.”

A poll conducted on June 4-7 by HarrisX for the Deseret News and the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics showed Cox with 62% of support from registered Republicans while Lyman had 25%. Another 12% of voters said they were undecided.

A poll released Monday from Noble Insights showed Cox with a narrower lead. It was conducted from June 20-21 and surveyed likely Republican voters. Cox was at 55% and Lyman was at 42%.

Contributing: Brigham Tomco

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.