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Utah special election for Congress sees Republican former House staffer face Democratic legislator

Nov 20, 2023, 10:10 PM

Utah 2nd Congressional District Republican nominee Celeste Maloy speaks to reporters before an elec...

Utah 2nd Congressional District Republican nominee Celeste Maloy speaks to reporters before an election night party at the Utah Trucking Association, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023, in West Valley City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Voters in Utah are choosing between a Republican former congressional staffer and a Democratic state senator in a special election Tuesday to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, who recently resigned.

Republican Celeste Maloy, who is Stewart’s former chief counsel, and state Sen. Kathleen Riebe, who as minority whip is the No. 2 Democrat in the state Senate, are competing to become the first woman in Utah’s congressional delegation since 2019 and only the fifth in history.

Maloy, a southern Nevada native and resident of southwestern Utah, is the heavy favorite in the Republican-leaning 2nd congressional district, which stretches from southern and western Utah to Salt Lake City. The winner will join the state’s three other Republican U.S. House members. The state’s two U.S. senators are also Republican.

Maloy campaigned on improving security on the U.S.-Mexico border, reining in what she calls “out of control” federal spending, protecting religious freedom and putting Utah more in control of natural resources on its federal lands.

She highlighted her experience working for Stewart in an Oct. 26 debate with Riebe.

“I’ve been working for this district. I’ve been solving issues that people in this district have called their congressman about and asked for help,” Maloy said in the debate. “Congress is struggling right now. Things aren’t going smoothly and we really need somebody to get into this state who knows how Congress works.”

A Long Island native who lives in the Salt Lake City suburb of Cottonwood Heights, Riebe campaigned on her background as a teacher. She promised on her website to continue to teach five days a week while campaigning on more affordable housing, support for labor unions and public education based on “student needs and community values.”

“I am very in touch with my families across the state. I have been working to understand how our policies impact their home lives,” Riebe said in the debate with Maloy.

Maloy dominated in fundraising, bringing in almost $600,000 and spending more than three-quarters of that over the seven months leading up to the election. Riebe brought in half that amount and spent about 90%, according to candidate reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The most recent woman to represent Utah in the U.S. House was Mia Love, who served from 2015-2019 and was the state’s first Black congresswoman.

A six-term congressman and U.S. Air Force veteran, Stewart set off a Republican scramble to fill his seat after his announcement in May that he was resigning to care for his ill wife.

Maloy rode a wave of rural support to win a three-way Republican special primary on Sept. 5, beating former state Rep. Becky Edwards and businessperson Bruce Hough.

There was no Democratic primary after Riebe was the top vote-getter in a Democratic convention and unopposed for her party’s nomination.

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Utah special election for Congress sees Republican former House staffer face Democratic legislator