Spencer Cox Wins Utah’s G.O.P. Primary for Governor, Beating Jon Huntsman

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah won last week’s Republican primary for governor, according to results released on Monday.

He defeated Jon Huntsman Jr., who served as governor from 2005 to 2009 before stepping down to become President Barack Obama’s ambassador to China. The Associated Press called the race on Monday evening, and Mr. Cox said on Twitter that Mr. Huntsman had called him to concede.

Mr. Cox is expected to win the governorship in November over the Democratic nominee, Chris Peterson. Utah has not elected a Democrat as governor in more than 35 years.

The primary was a convoluted political story: Mr. Cox is the current lieutenant governor under Gov. Gary Herbert, who got the job because he had himself been lieutenant governor under Mr. Huntsman. Mr. Herbert chose this year to endorse Mr. Cox rather than Mr. Huntsman.

Mr. Huntsman’s campaign was interrupted last month when he tested positive for the coronavirus. He has since recovered.

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Credit…Pool photo by Ivy Ceballo

To some extent, Mr. Huntsman’s loss was surprising given his political history: He was one of the most popular governors in the country when he left office. But he is also a moderate Republican who served as ambassador to China under Mr. Obama in addition to his posts in Republican administrations, and moderation and bipartisanship have not tended to play well in Republican primaries in the age of President Trump.

He also served as ambassador to Russia under Mr. Trump before resigning in August.

Mr. Huntsman ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 and placed third in the New Hampshire primary, but ended his campaign before the South Carolina primary and endorsed Mitt Romney. Mr. Romney lost in the general election but made his own political comeback in Utah, which elected him to the Senate in 2018.

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