Utah Lt. Gov. Cox leads Huntsman in close governor's race

Utah Lt. Gov. Cox leads Huntsman in close governor's race
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Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) was leading former Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) in the state's Republican gubernatorial primary as votes continued to be tallied into the night. 

With 76 percent of precincts reporting, Cox was leading in the primary with 37 percent of the vote compared to Huntsman’s 34.4 percent. State Rep. Greg Hughes (R) trailed in a distant third with 20.7 percent.

The state experienced a surge in mailed-in ballots that is expected to delay results for close races for days or weeks.

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Whoever wins the GOP primary will be the heavy favorite to replace Gov. Gary Herbert (R) in the deep-red state.

Huntsman entered the race with high name recognition as a former governor who cut his tenure short to become President Obama's ambassador to China, irking some voters.

He then run unsuccessfully for president in 2012 and also served as President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Tucker Carlson ratchets up criticism of Duckworth, calls her a 'coward' Trump on Confederate flag: 'It's freedom of speech' MORE's ambassador to Russia.

Huntsman comes from a well known business family in Utah with deep political ties: his father, Jon Huntsman Sr., founded chemicals firm Huntsman Corp. 

But Cox has received Herbert’s endorsement and has helped lead the state's coronavirus response at a time of deep fears about the spread of the pandemic.