Congressional aide Celeste Maloy’s (R) victory in last Saturday’s special Republican Party 2nd District convention could be short-lived.
A story is running in the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper that Ms. Maloy, legal counsel to resigning Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Farmington), may not have met the legal requirements to become a candidate.
During her time in Rep. Stewart’s DC office, she did not vote in Utah during either the 2020 or 2022 election, thus was placed on the inactive voter list. She apparently re-registered in the state after the special election candidate filing deadline. During her time living in Virginia, Ms. Maloy registered to vote and cast ballots in Old Dominion elections.
Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson (R) is the top election officer in the state. She, and other Republican Party officials, say there is no requirement to be a qualified voter to compete in the special election, only that the individuals are Utah registered Republicans as the state party constitution requires.
Utah Republican Party chairman Rob Axson says any challenge to Maloy’s victory is moot since the convention adjourned. He said any such challenge needed to be filed while the convention was still underway. Mr. Axson further said he will submit Ms. Maloy’s name this week to the state as the officially endorsed Republican Party special congressional election candidate.
Some of the Republican candidates, including defeated contender Kathleen Anderson who appears to be taking the lead in asking for a review of Maloy’s victory, may file a lawsuit to overturn the results. Ms. Anderson says she is looking for “transparency” because she believes had Ms. Maloy’s voter registration status been made known to the convention’s voting delegates, the outcome might have changed. Ms. Maloy won the fifth and final round convention balloting by just 31 votes.
Last evening, in a special virtual Democratic Party convention, state Sen. Kathleen Riebe (D-Cottonwood Heights) easily won the party endorsement and will likely be unopposed in the special primary. Ms. Riebe scored 86% of the first round vote, which clinched the party’s ballot line.
Democrats are rallying behind Sen. Riebe, saying they have a chance to win the special election. Losing candidate Guy Warner attacked the Republican legislature and Governor for creating a stand alone special election instead of making it concurrent with the regular election calendar.
Mr. Warner thanked “…the Utah GOP for wasting millions of dollars on a special election that’s only happening because of their allegiance to Speaker (Kevin) McCarthy and not the people of Utah. They failed to understand they created a great situation where we (Democrats) can win.” Sen. Riebe echoed those comments in saying, “this election is an opportunity for our party that we can’t afford to waste. There’s a chance to energize our voters and make up ground in what will undoubtedly be a low-turnout election.”
The Democratic statements are likely too optimistic. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates UT-2 as R+23. Dave’s Redistricting App calculates the partisan lean at 60.1R – 34.2D. Donald Trump defeated President Joe Biden in this district, 57-39%. Rep. Stewart averaged 59.9% in his six congressional victories, although only one of the latter man’s elections was conducted in the 2nd District’s present configuration.
Though party endorsements have been awarded and the winning candidates are guaranteed a ballot line in the special primary, there is an avenue for others to still qualify. Under Utah election law, an individual may access the primary ballot through the petition signature option. A total of 7,000 valid signatures are required from members of the candidate’s political party. The submission deadline is July 5th.
At this point, it appears that two candidates, former state Rep. Becky Edwards (R) and ex-Republican National Committeeman Bruce Hough, may meet the petition signature requirement to enter the September 5th special election primary. The special general is calendared for November 21st. Rep. Stewart will resign his seat on September 15th.
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