US Senate Race in Utah Heats Up With 3 GOP Contenders and Democratic-Backed Independent

By Allan Stein
Allan Stein
Allan Stein
Allan Stein is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Arizona.
June 17, 2022 Updated: June 21, 2022

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) will face two Republican opponents in Utah’s June 28 primary in what might turn out to be a challenging reelection bid.

In 2010, Lee sailed into office on a Tea Party wave after defeating three-term incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett in the Republican primary. He was reelected in 2016, trouncing Democrat rival Misty Snow with nearly 68 percent of the vote.

This time, Lee has stiff opposition in Republican candidates Becky Edwards, a former Utah state representative, and business executive Ally Isom.

However, Utah U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, who made an unsuccessful run for president in 2016, has yet to endorse any candidate, saying he is friends with all three, according to news reports.

Democrats Back Independent

There are no Democratic candidates in Utah’s 2022 midterm Senate race.

Instead, Utah’s Democratic Party has thrown its support to former undercover CIA officer Evan McMullin, an independent, giving him potential to unseat Lee through an independent coalition of voters.

McMullin captured 22 percent of the Utah vote when he ran for president against Donald Trump in 2016. Some political observers, however, view McMullin’s anti-Trump stance as helping Democrats.

McMullin began his campaign in October 2021 on a platform of 12 principles, including reaffirming the country’s founding ideals, defending the Constitution, and honest government.

“These 12 principles have inspired my campaign to replace Mike Lee and represent Utah in the U.S. Senate. They are essential for helping America move beyond the division and extremism that we see today,” McMullin states on his campaign website.

The United Utah Party endorsed McMullin for the U.S. Senate seat. He’s raised $1.8 million in campaign donations to date.

Edwards, a conservative Republican, hopes to unseat Lee in the primary by bringing her five terms as a state representative to the table.

“Being a public servant means working tirelessly for our state alongside constituents and fellow leaders to solve problems,” Edwards says on her website. “That is exactly what I’ve done for my entire career.”

Republican Rivals

A former marriage and family therapist, Edwards’s list of accomplishments include the passage of the first climate change resolution in Utah. She also helped create the Commission on Housing Affordability to address Utah’s housing needs and is viewed as a pioneer of a statewide telehealth program.

Meanwhile, Isom has set her sights on the Republican nomination by seeking change on a conservative platform.

“Over the last year, wearing my red running shoes, I walked with everyday Utahns in more than 120 Utah cities and towns across this beautiful state,” Isom said on her website.

She said consistent themes emerged centering on the economy and inflation, water, energy prices, affordable housing, law enforcement morale, and the impact of COVID-19.

“I’ve listened to local community leaders, parents, business owners, entrepreneurs, ranchers, teachers, and everyone in between—all [to] understand what’s top of mind and in the hearts of my fellow Utahns,” she added.

Edwards has raised $1.2 million in campaign financing. Isom’s contributions total nearly $679,000, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

On his campaign website, Lee describes himself as a “champion for conservative principles,” getting things done in Congress, and someone who believes in holding power accountable.

Last year, Lee’s bipartisan State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act of 2021 unanimously passed the Senate. The bill ensures that each state gets the same treatment when choosing the location to enforce federal antitrust laws.

The primary election will take place by mail-in ballot in four congressional districts created by Utah’s Legislature in 2021. However, there will be limited opportunities to vote in person.

In Utah County, Election Divisions spokesman Justin Anderson said the county will have six voting centers open on Election Day for in-person voting, “but a majority of the votes cast will be through vote by mail.”

“We have not experienced any challenges with the new district boundaries following redistricting,” Anderson told The Epoch Times.

Utah’s primary also features four contested U.S. House races.

Allan Stein
Allan Stein is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Arizona.