Former Utah state legislator wins GOP support for Chaffetz seat

Former state legislator Chris Herrod was picked by Utah’s special convention on Saturday as the preferred candidate to compete in a special election to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

Chaffetz announced earlier this year he's resigning at the end of June. His decision to step down left an enticing open seat that attracted 12 Republicans, including state lawmakers, political activists, lawyers and others to compete in what's considered one of the most conservative congressional districts in the country.

Herrod won the vote of nearly 800 GOP Delegates. He advances to a primary election in August where he will face two other candidates: John Curtis, the mayor of Provo, where the convention was held, and Tanner Ainge, consulting firm owner and son of the Boston Celtics’ general manager.

Herrod served in Utah’s Legislature for five years beginning in 2007. In 2012 he unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Orrin Hatch for his seat. He also worked on Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign last year.

Herrod is currently a home loan officer in Provo, Utah.

Herrod was also one of the only candidates on Saturday to mention of an issue dominating Washington — the widening probe into Russia's election meddling and possible ties between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia.

"We need to get over accusations of collusion and get to the real issues," he said.

Herrod, speaking to reporters after his win, said he's no fan of Putin's but thinks the U.S. needs open lines of communications with Russia to tackle issues like terrorism and the war in Syria.

Chaffetz, considered popular in Utah's 3rd Congressional District, received almost no mention at Saturday's event, including comments about his surprise decision to leave office about six months after winning re-election, citing a desire to spend more time with his family. As chairman of the House Governmental Oversight Committee, Chaffetz was a determined investigator of the Obama administration and of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

The August primary election, where the GOP nominee will be finalized, will be a traditional election with ballots and voting machines run by the state elections office.

Utah Democrats held their own convention on Saturday, selecting physician Kathie Allen, who will not have to compete in a primary election.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.