The once-crowded Republican field to replace Congressman Jason Chaffetz is now down to three candidates — and when it comes to discussing President Trump, the GOP candidates are striking a delicate chord between support and uncertainty.
Only two of the 11 candidates in the running for the Utah GOP’s special nominating convention this weekend even referenced President Trump.
"If you can’t go to Washington and stand for his agenda and stand for our president, you have no business going to Washington,” said Debbie Aldrich, one of the candidates most closely aligned with Trump, during her convention speech.
The line received only modest applause, and Aldrich was one of the first voted out.
A noticeable lack of enthusiasm for Trump among some conservative Utahns presents a unique challenge for Republicans promising to shake things up in Washington — especially when their party runs all three branches of government.
Former state lawmaker Chris Herrod, who won Saturday’s convention, said he doesn’t think Trump’s popularity — or lack thereof — will have a determining effect on the 3rd district race.
"Over 50 percent of Utah County voted for Trump...but my allegiance is to the Constitution; I won’t swear that to Trump,” he said. “But on those issues that I can agree on, I will help push his platform.”
Herrod will face financial adviser Tanner Ainge and Provo Mayor John Curtis in the GOP’s primary on Aug. 15.
While Ainge did end up voting for Trump in the general election, he told the Salt Lake Tribune he is concerned by the drama engulfing the White House.
Curtis, meanwhile, is the only candidate to admit he did not vote for Trump, opting to write-in a friend’s name instead.
“But now, I want to find the good things,” he said. “This is my style again, is asking 'How can I have a working relationship with him?’ Because we need to move the country forward, and we’ve got to help him be successful.”
Curtis said he’s concerned that Trump's inability to focus has slowed progress on GOP big-ticket agenda items like health care, tax reform and infrastructure.