Early GOP primary results show incumbents Stewart, Lee with large lead over challengers

The candidates for the Republican Senate primary gathered at the Draper Park Middle School on  June 1, 2022, to participate in a GOP-sponsored debate.

Voters headed to the polls on Tuesday for the primary election to determine which candidates get the powerful Republican nomination going into the primary election. All of the five Utah incumbents face primary challengers, including for the races in southwest Utah.

But the early returns were big enough for the incumbents to be declared the winners soon after the polls closed.

Preliminary Results

Utah 2nd Congressional District

  • Chris Stewart (incumbent): 56,139 (72%)

  • Erin Rider: 21,710 (28%)

U.S. Senate 

  • Mike Lee (incumbent): 178,906 (61%)

  • Becky Edwards: 90,536 (31%)

  • Ally Isom: 24,545 (8%)

Even though these results are early, the Associated Press has projected that the incumbent senator, Mike Lee won the Republican primary.

It should be noted that these results are just preliminary and will be updated in the future. Since Utah conducts its elections primarily through mail-in ballots more ballots will be mailed to county clerks to be counted.

The status of your ballot can be checked by going to the votesearch.utah.gov website.

2nd District

  • Chris Stewart: 56,139 (72%)

  • Erin Rider: 21,710 (28%)

This race between Stewart and Rider, is the first Republican primary this district has seen in 10 years since Stewart was able to defeat any Republican challenger in the state convention. And at the state convention this year Stewart got 84% of the delegate vote while Rider got 16%. But Rider was able to get to the primary ballot by collecting the required 7,000 signatures under state law.

While Stewart was able to run large majorities in rural counties within the district, including getting about 82.6% of the vote in Iron County, Rider was able to make it a close race in larger counties.

Erin Rider is a Republican congressional candidate for Utah's 2nd District and is challenging the 5-term incumbent Rep. Chris Stewart in a GOP primary on June 28.

Rider has said she was inspired to run because she thinks Stewart doesn't focus on building consensus to getting legislation passed and because she thinks the 2020 election cycle wasn't a step in the right direction for the GOP especially because of the violent insurrection that happened on January 6, 2021, an event which is currently being investigated by a congressional select committee.

Stewart was a member of Congress who signed multiple letters that threw doubt on the outcome of the Presidential election. Stewart also voted against certifying certain slates of electors on January 6. Stewart has defended his actions, saying he still has doubt about how certain states ran their elections and that Trump has repeatedly defended his unfounded claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Trump and Stewart stuck together on this issue and a day before the primary election against Rider, the former president issued an endorsement for Stewart. Trump called the long-time congressman a "Conservative Warrior" who has his total support and Stewart said on Facebook he gladly accepted Trump's endorsement.

Rider is a first-time political candidate and currently works as a corporate attorney in Salt Lake City but she does have some experience working in Congress since she was a law clerk for the Senate Finance Committee under Sen. Orrin Hatch.

This elected office is the only one Stewart, an Airforce veteran has ever held before he was elected in 2012. Before being a member of Congress, Stewart was a best-selling author and CEO for the Shipley Group, a consulting firm on energy and the environment.

During this election, Stewart had more cash on hand to spend than Rider.

Stewart has just over $821,000 in cash contributions and transfers, about $707,000 is from contributions and $111,000 is from committee transfers, according to FEC filings. For the contributions totals to Stewart 60.5% or just over $428,500 come from individual contributions and 39.4% or just over $279,000 come from political action committees.

Rider has been able to raise a fair amount of cash for this race by getting just under $290,000 in contributions, according to FEC filings. All of these contributions are from individuals and Rider has yet to take money from a political action committee.  Rider has touted that she outraised Stewart this year since she was able to outraise Stewart during the first quarter of 2022, pulling in about $115,000 compared to Stewart's $110,000.

After this primary election, the winning candidate will face three candidates in the general election: Nick Mitchell, a Democrat, Jay McFarland, a member of the United Utah Party and Cassie Easley, a member of the Constitution Party.

U.S. Senate

  • Mike Lee (incumbent): 178,906 (61%)

  • Becky Edwards: 90,536 (31%)

  • Ally Isom: 24,545 (8%)

This senate race is the only federal primary election between three candidates.

The race was called less than an hour after the polls closed by the Associated Press and showed Lee being able to defend his seat with a majority of votes.

This win by Lee sets up an unusual general election for the Republican since he will face Evan McMullin, an unaffiliated candidate. Since Utah Democrats decided not to run a candidate in this race and support McMullin, who's political profile rose dramatically in 2016 when he mounted an independent presidential campaign that was able to gain some momentum in Utah.

McMullin has attacked Lee for his support of President Trump and called him dangerous for Democracy.

Both Edwards and Isom have attacked Lee saying that he doesn't get enough done in Congress and isn't focused on collaborating to enact legislation. Edwards has said she would be a more moderate senator and Isom has said she wants to build bridges if elected.

Both Isom and Edwards have said they didn't vote Trump during the 2020 election and Lee's involvement with Trump has been highly publicized. During a rally in 2020 Lee was criticized for calling Trump "Captain Moroni," a prominent figure in the Book of Mormon as was his involvement with Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Text messages between Lee and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows which were initially released by CNN showed Lee said he spent up to 14 hours a day to help Trump overturn the election, through an alternate slate of electors theory. Even though reporting done by the Washington Post claimed Lee first head about Trump's effort to overturn the election on January 2, 2021.

Although the texts show Lee worked for several weeks after the November election to help vet Trump's alternate slate of electors theory he did vote to certify the 2020 election results. Lee has repeatedly defended his actions around that effort, those texts and his vote to certify with his office saying that Lee was fulfilling his duty by looking into claims of fraud but that since he couldn't find any he voted to certify the election.

Despite this Lee has maintained strong Republican support and gained 70% of the delegate vote at the state convention. But all three candidates gathered signatures to appear on the primary ballot.

Of the three candidates Lee had a clear campaign finance advantage, he had just under $7.4 million in contributions and spent $5.3 million, according to FEC filings. The other two didn't come close to these numbers, Edwards raised $1.5 million and spent $1.3 million while Isom raised approximately $678,000 and spent about $625,000.

Sean Hemmersmeier covers local government, growth and development in Southwestern Utah. Follow on Twitter @seanhemmers34Our work depends on subscribers so if you want more coverage on these issues you can subscribe here: http://www.thespectrum.com/subscribe

This article originally appeared on St. George Spectrum & Daily News: Early Utah GOP primary results projected wins for Lee and Stewart