Former congressional staffer Celeste Maloy came out on top in this week’s special Republican primary election in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, advancing to November’s general election.
Maloy had 38% of the GOP vote when The Associated Press called the race, compared with 35% for Becky Edwards, a former state senator, and 27% for Bruce Hough, the former state GOP chair.
Maloy is now the heavy favorite to win the special general election in the safe Republican seat in November, after which she would take over the rest of GOP Rep. Chris Stewart’s term in Congress.
Stewart announced in May that he would leave Congress in September.
He endorsed Maloy, his former staffer, early in the primary, and she advanced to the ballot at a Republican Party convention in June.
Her campaign was bogged down by legal challenges from a candidate who lost at the convention and argued that Maloy should be removed from the ballot because she wasn’t registered to vote in the state when she launched her campaign.
A judge later allowed Maloy to stay on the ballot.
She campaigned on her small-town roots and ultimately got large vote shares in rural areas, which make up a significant part of the southern part of the district.
It’s a strategy Stewart used in his re-election campaign last year, when he ran up the score in places like Washington, Iron and Beaver counties.
That’s what Maloy did in the primary, with her margins in the rural counties outweighing strong support for Edwards in and around Salt Lake County.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com