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Cox ahead of Huntsman in race for governor, poll shows

SHARE Cox ahead of Huntsman in race for governor, poll shows

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox and former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

Deseret News/Associated Press composite photo

SALT LAKE CITY — Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is leading former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. among Republican voters, according to the latest poll on the Utah governor’s race.

In a UtahPolicy.com poll published Friday, 41% of registered Republican voters in the state said Cox would be their first choice if the 2020 primary took place today, while 29% of respondents said Huntsman, who most recently served as U.S. ambassador to Russia, would be their first choice. The poll, conducted between Nov. 19 and Dec. 7, included candidates who had already declared, as well as potential candidates.

Following the two frontrunners were retiring Rep. Rob Bishop with 9% and Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton with 6%. Former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, businessman Jeff Burningham, and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes were each the top choice of 5% of Republicans. One percent of voters chose real estate executive Thomas Wright as their favorite.

It’s not surprising that Cox and Huntsman are leading the polls considering their name recognition, said Y2 Analytics partner Kelly Patterson. Other candidates face an uphill battle, but the race is still young.

“It’s going to be a very exciting race with two really well-known candidates and several others who have significant political experience,” Patterson said.

The poll showed Cox earning support from a range of Republican voters, including 36% of “strong” Republicans, 41% of moderate Republicans, and 58% of independent-leaning Republicans. He was also the leading candidate for both male and female voters with 40% of Republican men and 41% of Republican women, while 29% of men and 30% of women chose Huntsman.

Patterson attributed the lieutenant governor’s broad support to his recent experience in state office.

“It’s a chance to reach out, build bridges and get your name known among a variety of constituencies,” Patterson said. “Whereas Ambassador Huntsman hasn’t been here to engage in the same sort of local outreach.”

When asked who their second choice candidate would be if their first choice wasn’t available, Cox and Huntsman tied for top second place candidate with 18% each. The biggest chunk of Cox supporters said they would choose Huntsman if Cox were not in the race, and vice versa.

Sixteen percent of Republicans said they would choose Reyes as their second choice candidate, 14% said they would choose Newton, and 13% said they would choose Bishop. Hughes, Burningham and Wright were chosen by 9%, 7% and 4%, respectively.

The poll was conducted among 911 voters and has a margin of error of 4.6 percentage points.