The campaign of congressional candidate Colby Jenkins on Friday said they hoped outstanding ballots in Washington County, and across the state, would bring the hotly contested 2nd District race under the threshold for a ballot recount as Rep. Celeste Maloy held onto a narrow lead after the third day of counting.

Utah’s primary season has seen a dramatic and prolonged finale as Maloy fights to hold onto her seat, which she won in November’s special election after narrowly prevailing in a primary powered by Washington County support.

Almost exactly one year later, Maloy’s second Republican primary nail-biter will likely come down to outstanding votes in her home territory, also home to Jenkins.

Maloy, who previously worked as a Washington County deputy attorney, and her challenger, Jenkins, a former Green Beret colonel and St. George resident, were separated by just 383 votes on Friday afternoon, with vote totals coming in at 50.2% for Maloy and 49.8% for Jenkins.

The race has been too close to call as county election officials continue to update results each afternoon.

“I thank the county clerks and their staffs for the work they are doing,” Maloy told the Deseret News in a statement. “I’m focused on doing my job representing the people of the 2nd District as we await updated vote totals later today.”

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Will there be a recount in Utah’s 2nd District primary?

While Maloy hopes for reelection to a full term, Jenkins is hoping for a replay of the primary election.

“What we would consider a win today is getting into recount territory with those Washington County ballots,” said Greg Powers, the general consultant on Jenkins’ campaign.

The largest share of uncounted ballots in the 2nd District race on Friday morning appear to be in Washington County, which still had to process 1,765 votes and work through the cure list, which entails reaching out to over 700 voters about ballots with signatures that do not match those on record.

In state code, a recount may be called by a losing candidate if the margin is equal to or less than .25% of the total votes cast. With at least 106,000 ballots cast in the race, Jenkins would need to narrow the gap between him and Maloy to roughly 260 votes before he could request a recount.

Jenkins currently leads in Washington County, the district’s largest population center, 59%-41%. His winning ratio has been higher with late breaking ballots in the last two days, Powers said, closer to 62%. But Jenkins needed to win closer to 65% of the county’s remaining votes to allow for a recount.

At 4 p.m. on Friday, Washington County updated its vote total with more than 1,800 votes, narrowing Maloy’s lead from around 1,000 to 383 votes. Nearly 66% of the late breaking votes went for Jenkins, according to his campaign. If the county’s remaining ballots on the cure list, or Sevier County’s nearly 500 unprocessed votes, fall for Jenkins in a similar ratio, he will be able to request a recount.

County vote totals will likely not be updated again until next week.

Powers recognizes the remaining ballots are not enough “to put us over the top” but he says a recount is within reach. A recount could benefit Jenkins by allowing more time for straggling rural ballots to make their way in and for incomplete ballots to be cured, Jenkins said.

“We actually kind of like our chance in a recount because it’s going to be more and more of those late ballots trickling in and I think it wouldn’t be out of the question to see us slowly just erode her lead,” Powers said.

Veteran Utah political strategist Spencer Stokes, who is working as a consultant on Maloy’s campaign, said Jenkins’ hopes are probably misplaced.

“Clearly Washington County has a lot of votes and the votes are breaking at a higher percentage for Colby Jenkins. But we are seeing the latter votes are not breaking as much for Colby,” Stokes said.

Lee and Trump weigh in on CD2 race

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The 2nd Congressional District primary has become a battleground for Utah’s members of Congress and the GOP at large.

Sen. Mike Lee endorsed Jenkins shortly before the state convention, contributing to Jenkins’ victory among party delegates and breaking Lee’s longstanding policy of staying neutral in Utah congressional primaries. The endorsement, which boosted Jenkins’ name ID and fundraising numbers, was met by shock in Utah political circles and led to Maloy’s Utah colleagues in the House endorsing her.

Just over a week before the primary election, former President Donald Trump gave Maloy his endorsement, likely at the request of House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La. At that point, ballots had already been sent out to voters.

The results of the 2nd District contest may shed light on the impact and limits of Lee’s and Trump’s endorsements in Utah Republican politics.

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