Candidates to replace Utah Republican Chris Stewart in Congress head to ballot

Jul 12, 2023, 2:11 PM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The race to fill outgoing U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart’s congressional seat will feature a former staffer, a Republican National Committeeman, and current and former state lawmakers.

Republicans and Democrats have finalized the candidates slated to appear on Sept. 5 primary ballots, setting the stage for a Nov. 21 special election to replace Stewart, the six-term Utah congressman who announced plans to resign in May.

Utah voters registered as Republicans will choose from three candidates: former Stewart staffer Celeste Maloy, former Republican National Committeeman Bruce Hough and former state Sen. Becky Edwards. State Sen. Kathleen Riebe, whom Democrats nominated at their convention last month, is the only Democrat running. Five additional third-party and unaffiliated candidates are also running.

Stewart’s unexpected resignation set off a rush in Utah as Republicans lined up to vie to succeed him in the deeply conservative district spanning from St. George to downtown Salt Lake City. State law allows candidates to qualify for the primary election ballot in two ways, either through their party’s nomination or, for a congressional election, through gathering 7,000 signatures.

Utah Republicans at their party convention last month nominated attorney Celeste Maloy, Stewart’s former legal counsel whom both he and former U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop endorsed. She prevailed over Greg Hughes, the former Republican Utah House Speaker who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2020, and nine other candidates.

Some Republicans in the statehouse later questioned her eligibility after The Salt Lake Tribune reported that her voter registration with the Republican Party had become inactive because she hadn’t voted in recent elections while living in Virginia and working for Stewart. The party ultimately nominated her anyway as the lieutenant governor defended her eligibility under state law.

Maloy will compete against two candidates on the Republican ballot. The Utah lieutenant governor’s office said Wednesday that Bruce Hough, a longtime Republican Party activist from Park City who co-founded a nutritional supplement company, had submitted enough signatures to qualify. Hough resigned from his position as Utah’s Republican National Committeeman to run. Former State Sen. Becky Edwards, who ran on an anti-Trump platform in Utah’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate last year, qualified for the ballot last week.

All three are running on traditional small government, pro-business platforms. The winner will take on Democrat Kathleen Riebe, a state senator who was nominated at her party’s convention last month as well.

Riebe, a Salt Lake County educator, regularly takes stands against the majority party on high profile issues including abortion, transgender rights and education policy.

Utah’s 2nd Congressional District leans heavily Republican. Stewart defeated Democrat Nick Mitchell by more than 25 percentage points in 2022.

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Candidates to replace Utah Republican Chris Stewart in Congress head to ballot