The Republican mayor of Provo, Utah, beat a well-financed Democrat and a third-party candidate with a famous name to claim a vacant House seat in a special election decided Tuesday, the Associated Press has projected.
John Curtis will take the seat previously held by Jason Chaffetz, who gave up his Oversight and Government Reform Committee gavel and stepped down from the House in June. Chaffetz now works as a Fox News Channel commentator.
Curtis, who has been mayor since 2010 and ran on his record as the pragmatic leader of Utah’s third-largest city, was ahead with 58.8 percent at 10:55 p.m.
Democrat Kathie Allen, a physician and first-time political candidate, had 26 percent, while Jim Bennett, who ran as nominee of the United Utah Party and is the son of former Republican Sen. Robert F. Bennett, had 9 percent.
Libertarian Joe Buchman, Jason Christensen of the Independent American Party, and independent Sean Whalen were also on the ballot.
Curtis emerged from a hard-fought Republican primary in August, where he faced attacks for not being sufficiently conservative and for having once sought office as a Democrat. The Club for Growth, an influential Washington conservative lobbying group, lined up against Curtis, as did Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Curtis was able to win a comfortable victory based on his record and name recognition.
Allen, who jumped into the race before Chaffetz announced his resignation, raised more than $800,000 on the strength of small-dollar liberal donors from across the country — many of whom donated to help oust Chaffetz, a well-known conservative figure.
She has spent about $150,000 more than Curtis, according to the most recently available campaign finance disclosure reports. Bennett, who sought to attract moderate voters dismayed by the two major parties, raised less than $15,000.
Even seeking a vacant seat, however, Allen faced fierce head winds in the 3rd Congressional District, where Republicans hold a commanding advantage. National Democratic groups did not spend in support of Allen, citing the political obstacles of that particular district.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the seat as having a 25-point GOP lean — the 16th most Republican seat in the nation — and Curtis was long seen as a favorite in the race. An October Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found he held a 27 point advantage over Allen.
The district includes part of Salt Lake City’s southeast suburbs and stretches south through Provo, home of Brigham Young University, and toward the southeast corner of the state.