Evan McMullin, who is running as an independent to unseat Republican Sen. Mike Lee, has been officially backed by the Utah Democrats.
The endorsement could help McMullin's Senate campaign at a time when Lee is under fire for messages that show he texted then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows for weeks about how to reverse the 2020 election.
Party delegates decided 57 to 43 percent not to nominate a candidate at their convention in Murray, Utah. Former State Department officer Kael Weston had sought the Democratic endorsement.
In a statement, McMullin's team stated Utah Democrats opted to join his cross-partisan alliance and not select a candidate for the 2022 midterm US Senate contest. For the first time in Utah history, the Democratic Party is not running anyone in the statewide race.
Weston consented to their choice. "Let's all help get other Democrats elected this year. And let's all help defeat Mike Lee — the sooner the better," he tweeted. Lee is running for re-election in November in deep-red Utah, which voted for Trump by over 20 points in 2020. Utah Democrats haven't won the US Senate since 1970.
Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show that Lee has a lot more money than McMullin. During the June primary, the senator will face two Republicans: former state Rep. Becky Edwards and a former state official named Ally Isom. McMullin, a former CIA officer, House GOP aide and presidential candidate, campaigned as an anti-Trump conservative in 2016. While he received less than 1% of the vote nationwide, he received 22% of the vote in Utah, his greatest performance anywhere.
"I'm humbled and grateful to the Democratic delegates today for their decision to support this growing cross-partisan coalition," McMullin said. "Today, and moving forward, this coalition represents a majority of Utahns who want to replace Senator Mike Lee. He is a threat to the republic and consistently fails to represent our interests and our values."
Former Rep. Ben McAdams, who lost reelection in 2020 after just one term, was one of the state Democrats who worked to stop his party from nominating a candidate in the race. He said on Facebook he was glad to be a part of "a rising alliance of independents, Democrats, and Republicans." Together, he wrote, that coalition can defeat Senator Mike Lee.
McAdams thought about running for the Senate, but he didn't do it after he saw how hard it would be for a Democrat to win in a state that's mostly Republican.
The senator began messaging Meadows in early December 2020 about states submitting rival pro-Trump elector slates to Congress on January 6, 2021, CNN reported.
However, Lee has stated that he was only observing state activities rather than encouraging distinct electors to Meadows. In an interview with the Deseret News, he said that "At no point in any of those was I engaging in advocacy."
"At no point in any of those was I engaging in advocacy," he said.