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US Sen. Mike Lee pushing for third term, touts ‘principled leadership’

By Tim Vandenack - Standard-Examiner | Mar 17, 2022

Evan Cobb, Daily Herald file photo

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee poses for a portrait in the Daily Herald office on Tuesday, May 1, 2018, in Provo.

He’s got the most money, he’s leading in polling, he’s the incumbent.

So does that make U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, the Utah County GOPer, a shoe-in as he vies for a third term in the post?

Of course, nothing is a given in politics and Lee’s campaign emphasizes the work he’s putting in to get reelected, even if his seems to be a lower-profile effort, at least publicly, than those seeking to unseat him.

“Sen. Lee continues to work hard for the citizens of Utah and hopes to earn their vote in the upcoming election,” Matt Lusty, who’s helping lead the reelection effort, said in an email to the Standard-Examiner. The senator and his reelection team, Lusty said, “are engaged in all aspects of campaigning.”

Lee — alternatively reviled and lauded for his strong support of former President Donald Trump — is facing challenges on an array of fronts in his bid for a third term. On the Republican side, Becky Edwards, a former Utah House member, and Ally Isom, deputy chief of staff under former Gov. Gary Herbert, are waging intense campaigns to unseat him. Both have collected enough signatures on petitions to secure places on the GOP primary ballot, they say, though Utah election officials still have to review the signatures, make sure they’re valid.

Independent Evan McMullin, a fierce Trump critic who ran for president as an independent in 2016 as a counterpoint to Trump, is also trying to oust Lee, along with Democrat Kael Weston and seven others.

Stances on the issues aside, Isom, for one, has called on Lee to honor what she says is his commitment to only two terms as a U.S. Senator, to forego his current bid for a third term. But Lusty said that Lee, while a supporter of term-limit reform, never promised to serve just two terms.

“If put into place for all of Congress, term limits are useful and serve the people. However, because congressional assignments are largely based on seniority, Sen. Mike Lee won’t handicap the state by self-enforcing term limits,” Lusty said.

And through it all — the jabs from critics, the jockeying by the varied hopefuls — Lee is working to get his message out at gatherings around the state, even if his social media presence is more muted, perhaps, than his competitors.

“Sen. Lee has provided principled leadership for the state of Utah since his very first election. He continues to work hard to reduce the national debt, elevate constitutional principles and fight inflation,” Lusty said.

He’s held town hall gatherings, attended Republican Party Lincoln Day dinners and held delegate events. He held a March 4 rally in Salt Lake City as part of his reelection effort with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, according to the Daily Universe, the Brigham Young University newspaper.

“Our grassroots donations and high volunteer engagement show that Utahns enthusiastically support the reelection of Sen. Mike Lee,” Lusty said.

Indeed, on the financial front, Lee’s campaign has $2.17 million cash on hand, according to Federal Election Commission figures, way ahead of McMullin’s $702,746. Next were Edwards with $507,857 and Isom with $240,505.

Similarly, Lee mustered 51% support relative to other GOP hopefuls, according to a Feb. 28 poll by OH Predictive Insights, a Phoenix, Arizona-based polling firm. Undecided voters accounted for 37% of the total and Edwards came next with 5% backing.

As for critics who point to his strong backing of Trump and what they see as his hyperpartisan style, Lusty says the senator will work with anyone who sides with him on priority issues like debt and inflation. He said Lee worked with Democrat Sens. Cory Booker and Dick Durbin on criminal justice reform, Sen. Bernie Sanders on ending the U.S. role in Yemen and Sen. Patrick Leahy on reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.


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