SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Democrats are pushing to defeat Republican Sen. Mike Lee took the unusual step on Saturday of rejecting a party that instead hopes to get behind former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin.
Democrats have been swayed by calls from prominent members who said McMullin, a conservative who won a large share of the vote in Utah in 2016, stood the best chance of beating Lee in the deeply conservative state that won’t hasn’t elected a Democratic US senator in over 50 years.
“I want to represent you. I committed to it. I will maintain my independence,” McMullin told Democratic delegates.
Lee also faced two GOP challengers at his party’s nominating conventions. He easily won in front of the right-wing crowd with over 70% of the vote. But these candidates will still appear on the primary ballot because they used the state’s other route to the primary ballot and collected signatures.
Former state legislator Becky Edwards garnered about 12% of the vote on Saturday. The governor’s former deputy chief of staff, Ally Isom, came in third.
Lee’s relationship with former President Donald Trump has been the focus since CNN reported text messages showing the senator was involved in early efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, though Lee later pivoted and voted to confirm the election results after no generalizations. fraud appeared.
“I did my job,” Lee said of the posts. “I did my job as I always promised to do my job.”
McMullin is a former CIA officer who ran for president in 2016 and made inroads in the deeply conservative state where many GOP voters had reservations about then-candidate Trump. Lee himself voted for McMullin, although he later became a staunch ally of Trump, and the former president endorsed him.
A Democrat ran for the nomination, Kael Weston, but the pro-McMullin camp eventually convinced party delegates not to name anyone, clearing the way for independents as much as possible. His supporters included prominent Democrats like former Congressman Ben McAdams.
“I know Eva. I trust Evan,” McAdams told delegates during the contentious debate, presenting McMullin as the best possible chance to unseat Lee in a state where Republicans outnumber Democrats 4-to-1.
Republican Party Chairman Carson Jorgensen took aim at the Democrats’ decision, saying it showed weakness in the other party’s platform. “We as Republicans, it’s now up to us to shine,” he said. “I don’t know if everyone understands the seriousness of this.”
Also on Saturday, moderate Republican congressman John Curtis was forced into a primary, finishing second in a crowded field that included a challenger who brought in longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone. The effort did not carry candidate Jason Preston past the first ballot, however.
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