GOP’s Lee Defeats McMullin In Utah Senate Race

Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee secured a third term in office in Tuesday’s election, overcoming last-minute worries to hold off challenger Evan McMullin. The independent challenger is an avowed never-Trump politician who made headway in the weeks leading up to the midterms.

The unusual election pitted Lee against an independent supported by the Utah Democratic Party, which backed McMullin instead of their own party’s choice.

Despite his challenger’s so-called “independent” status, Lee capitalized on McMullin’s close ties with state Democrats.

The challenger utilized a party fundraising tool, ActBlue, and had extensive support from leftist activists such as actress Alyssa Milano.

With this in mind, Lee charged McMullin with being a part of the “Democrat industrial complex.” And even though the challenger pledged to remain independent if elected, there is little doubt he would have caucused with Senate Democrats.

Lee, who was swept into office by the 2010 Tea Party wave, faced a former CIA agent who ran a modest campaign for president in 2016 as a never-Trumper.

Both candidates tied their Senate runs to the White House. McMullin tried to tap into anti-Trump sentiment among some Utah voters with repeated references to the 2020 election.

That strategy proved misguided in a state where the former president took 58% of the vote in 2020. McMullin also tried to channel disagreement with the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling into support for his candidacy, but that did not translate to victory in conservative Utah.

McMullin accused the incumbent of “playing politics” with abortion in an attempt to divide Americans against each other.

He charged that such tactics mean GOP candidates “can raise more money.”

Meanwhile, Lee spread his message of his challenger’s ties to President Joe Biden. His focus on high inflation sparked by reckless federal spending and the border crisis caused by the administration’s policies resonated with the state’s electorate.

At one point the race seemed to be Lee’s to lose, with polls showing him dominating his independent opponent by anywhere from 5 to 20 points. The gap closed, however, and McMullin received an infusion of funding from big tech donors late in the contest.