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Provo Mayor John Curtis bagged a big endorsement from Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Tuesday in the race to replace Jason Chaffetz.
"John gets things done and is a proven conservative leader," Herbert said. "I have no doubt that John will be a congressman who will make Utah proud."
It's unusual for Herbert to endorse a candidate in a partisan race before the primary election, although he did come out in support of Sen. Ted Cruz just before last year's presidential caucuses in Utah.
"It is rare for him to get involved in the primaries," Derek Miller, a Herbert political adviser said. "He never yet felt compelled to do it before now."
Miller responded to a request for comment from the governor, saying Herbert felt it made sense in the special election with a shortened timeline where voters don't have a lot of chances to get to know the candidates in depth and endorsements may mean more than normally.
Additionally, Miller said, "he just believes more than ever in Washington, D.C., we need problem-solving conservatives rather than puritanical conservatives. He knows coming from local government himself (Herbert was a former Utah County commissioner) the kind of problem-solving skills that are necessary to govern and admires that in Mayor Curtis and what he's done in Provo and believes that will translate well into what we need in Washington, D.C. more problem solving and less purity contests."
Three GOP candidates are facing off in the Aug. 15 primary: Curtis, former state Rep. Chris Herrod and businessman Tanner Ainge. The winner will face Democrat Kathie Allen in the general election.
Curtis, who's finishing his eighth year as mayor of the state's third largest city, said he's "extremely honored" to have the governor's support.
"His leadership has made Utah the envy of all 50 states," Curtis said in a statement. "He's proven that conservative governance works. It's time for us to bring Utah results and values to D.C. and end the dysfunction there."
Curtis has racked up 21 other endorsements from mayors across the state. Most of that support comes from Utah County, with pledges from Lehi, American Fork and Orem. Farther north, he has favor from Sandy and Ogden and down south from St. George and Manti.
Herrod has his own endorsements from big-name conservatives: Republican Sens. Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Cruz is scheduled to visit Utah on Saturday to rally behind Herrod's congressional campaign.
He also has financial backing from the Senate Conservatives Fund and the House Freedom Fund. Herrod gained more support this week from the National Horizon political action committee, which is pumping $27,500 into radio ads supporting him and $96,000 into mailers attacking Curtis for his casual dress and his tax policies, contributions first reported by Utah Policy. Herrod cannot legally coordinate with the PAC and told The Salt Lake Tribune that he would have "designed the ads differently."
Ainge has collected props from a handful of state lawmakers, including Sens. Jake Anderegg, Howard Stephenson and Dan Hemmert, and Rep. Marc Roberts.
"I'm thrilled to have the support of these great legislators in my district," Ainge said in a statement. "They work hard to balance the budget in our state and keep taxes low. I will take the same core principles to Washington."
Editor Dan Harrie contributed to this report