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Kitchen edges closer to win in Democratic primary in Utah

July 7, 2018

FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2014, file photo, Kody Partridge, left, and Derek Kitchen, two of the six people who brought the lawsuit against the Utah's gay marriage ban, speak during a news conference in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City councilman Kitchen edged closer to victory Friday, July 6, 2018, in his Democratic primary race in one of the state Senate's few liberal districts. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City councilman Derek Kitchen, whose lawsuit overturned Utah’s prohibition on same-sex marriage, edged closer to victory Friday in his Democratic primary race in one of the state Senate’s few liberal districts.

Updated vote results showed Kitchen’s lead had widened over physician Jennifer Plumb and could be insurmountable, Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said.

Kitchen had 5.491 votes as of Friday, or roughly 53 percent, compared to 4,940, or about 47 percent, for Plumb.

The only ballots that remained uncounted were those that had not yet arrived by mail but had been postmarked by June 25, and corrected mail-in ballots that initially lacked proper signatures.

It’s “not remotely enough” to change the outcome, Swensen said. “It’s such a wide margin.”

Plumb has not conceded, though she’s said since the June 26 primary that victory is unlikely.

If confirmed by a final vote tally to be released Tuesday, Kitchen would run against Republican software company executive Chase Winder in the November general election to replace outspoken Sen. Jim Dabakis, who has represented most of Salt Lake City in the state Legislature since 2013.

Kitchen, 29, describes himself as a left-of-center pragmatist who would find common ground with Republicans in the state Senate, where Democrats are outnumbered 24-5.

“I’m really eager to get in there and figure out where Republicans have their values and where they align with mine and see what we can get done,” he said.

Kitchen said his priorities would be education, health care and “quality growth” for the state, which is expected to undergo a population boom in coming decades, he said.

Kitchen’s 2013 lawsuit against Utah’s same-sex marriage ban came two years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a separate case extending gay couples’ right to marry nationwide.

He and his husband married in a public ceremony in downtown Salt Lake City in 2015. They own a trendy Middle Eastern cafe in Salt Lake City.

Dabakis, the former Utah Democratic Party chairman, endorsed Kitchen shortly before last week’s primary. Dabakis is also gay.

As state Republicans pushed to rename a highway after President Donald Trump in recognition of his order shrinking two national monuments in the state, Dabakis countered with an amendment naming a ramp for porn star Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. Trump denies the allegation.

Neither effort became law.

“Jim and I come from the same corner on policy and politics, but I have a much different style than he does,” Kitchen after the primary election.

Plumb, who has campaigned for wider access to the overdose-reversal drug Naloxone, said she does not differ significantly with Kitchen on policy.

She said it would be disrespectful to voters to concede before every ballot had been counted. Refusing to bow out “is not delaying the people’s leadership, this is not delaying decisions being made,” she said.

She said she would support Kitchen if he becomes the Democratic candidate in the Senate race.

“He’s going have his victory lap whenever the numbers come in,” she said.

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