With his race too close to definitively call, Bob Stevenson, one of four GOP hopefuls for the 1st District U.S. House seat, busied himself on Wednesday with one of the more mundane efforts of campaigning.
“I’m out taking signs down,” he said by phone.
Staffers for Blake Moore’s campaign, meanwhile, were trying to figure out how many ballots had yet to be counted, like many vote watchers. “We’ve got people trying to figure this out,” said Matt Lusty, Moore’s campaign manager.
As of the latest vote count Wednesday afternoon, Moore held on to a narrow lead over Stevenson in the race, 28,347 votes, or 30.3% of the total, to 27,626 votes, or 29.4%, for Stevenson, according to figures released by Utah election officials. With more ballots trickling in, though, neither candidate was calling it a done deal.
“Just letting the process take its course,” said Moore, a Salt Lake City consultant who’s originally from Ogden. “We’re just thrilled to be in the position that we are.”
Stevenson, a Davis County commissioner, also took a wait-and-see approach. “There’s still a lot of ballots to be counted. We expected a close race and that’s exactly what it is — pretty dang close,” he said Tuesday evening, after the first batch of vote totals came out.
Moore also held a narrow lead when results were released late Tuesday evening, but with more ballots coming in and the margin so close, the final outcome still remains a question mark. Trailing behind Moore and Stevenson were Kerry Gibson, a former Weber County commissioner, with 22,161 votes, 23.6% of the total, followed by Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt with 15,115 votes, 16.7%.
Ballots must be quarantined before they can be counted, and in Weber County, at least, election officials were still tallying mail-in ballots received last Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, with an expected release of new totals on Thursday. The 1st District covers Weber County, northern Davis County and eight other northern and northeastern Utah counties.
“I will have a better idea of where we stand on results after our Thursday release,” said Ryan Cowley, head of the Weber County Elections Office. Likewise, Davis County election officials said they expected to release a new batch of ballots on Thursday.
U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, a Republican from Brigham City, now holds the 1st District U.S. House seat. But he opted out of seeking a 10th term and it set up an intense battle for the post. The Democratic and Republican winners from Tuesday will face off in the general election on Nov. 3 for the seat, which has leaned heavily Republican.
Darren Parry and Jamie Cheek are the Democratic hopefuls, and Parry held a more solid 52.6%-47.6% lead over Cheek, according to the updated but still incomplete returns as of Wednesday.
NERVOUS AND CONFIDENT
As Tuesday night wore on, the candidates for the 1st District U.S. House seat were alternatively nervous and confident.
“It comes down to the electorate, how they’re going to mark their ballot,” said Stevenson. Internal polling, however good, is of minimal comfort, he said, and he expected a “fairly tight” finish.
Moore, seeking public office for the first time, said it had been a tough but gratifying process. “It’s definitely been a fun, long road. I’m excited. The polls look good, but you never know how it turns out,” he said.
Witt noted what she said was the strong response to her call to reopen the country amid the varied restrictions implemented to guard against the spread of COVID-19. She said the restrictions run counter to U.S. constitutional rights of assembly and damage the economy. It’s been a big campaign theme for her.
“I’m humbled by all of the positive feedback we’ve been receiving from Utahns for reopening America and restoring our constitutional freedoms. There is a lot going on in society right now that is designed to tear us apart,” she said in a statement. “We need to come together as one nation, one people, and with one purpose. I’m committed to ensuring that America remains the beacon of hope for the world.”
One thing that’s marked the campaigning, here and everywhere, has been COVID-19, which has prevented up-close-and-personal campaigning. “In this case, because of the COVID, we have not been able to get out and meet a lot of people,” Stevenson said.
Gibson’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to a query Wednesday seeking comment.