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News Guide: Voters weigh governor, House, ballot questions

Debbie Sorensen inserts her ballot into a drops box Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

By LINDSAY WHITEHURST Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A new governor and a hard-fought Congressional race are at the top of the ticket on Tuesday’s Election Day in Utah, where voters will also weigh other House races and several state ballot initiatives. Voters in Utah and across the country are also casting their ballots for president.

Most people will vote by mail, and voter turnout is on track to be strong for 2020. For some close races, though, vote-counting could stretch out for days without a declared winner since vote-by-mail ballots generally take longer to count.

Here’s a look at the races to watch:

PRESIDENT

President Donald Trump is favored to win Utah again over Democrat Joe Biden. The deeply conservative state hasn’t elected a non-Republican presidential candidate since 1964. While a political culture rooted in the state’s predominant religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, makes many voters uncomfortable with Trump’s crudeness and brashness, most have stuck with their party. Utah leans heavily Republican with GOP registered voters outnumbering Democrats by more than a 3-to-1 margin.

GOVERNOR

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox looks to be a shoo-in to move into the state’s top political spot, despite criticism from his Democratic opponent Chris Peterson, who says Utah should have implemented a mask mandate to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The state has put in some new restrictions during a surge in virus cases that has taxed hospitals.

Cox has the endorsement of his boss, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who is not running again for the first time since he took office back in 2009. A moderate and onetime critic of President Donald Trump, Cox also beat out former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman Jr. in the GOP primary.

U.S. HOUSE

First-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams is defending the seat he flipped two years ago from Republican challenger Burgess Owens, a former football player and frequent Fox News guest. The race has been polling nearly tied, with a whopping combined total of nearly $19 million poured into the state.

It’s one of the few races in the country considered a tossup.

Northern Utah’s 1st Congressional District is also wide open for the first time in nearly two decades following the retirement of Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, though it’s considered a safe Republican district for GOP candidate Blake Moore, a principal at a Salt Lake City management consulting firm.

Republican incumbents in two other House districts, U.S. Reps. Chris Stewart and John Curtis, are also expected to cruise to victory.

BALLOT INITIATIVES

Voters also weighing several ballot questions, including one that would change the Utah constitution to remove a clause allowing slavery as a form of punishment. Another would change a constitutional requirement that income tax money be used for education. Lawmakers have said allowing that money to be used for other programs for children and people with disabilities is a necessary revision to shore up future revenues. Some advocates have opposed the change, saying it would do nothing to help already underfunded programs.

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Find AP’s full election coverage at APNews.com/Election2020.