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Mike Lee attends town halls throughout Utah County with Senate candidates

By Carlene Coombs and Curtis Booker - Daily Herald | Apr 6, 2024
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U.S. Sen. Mike Lee and Senate candidate Brad Wilson address a packed room during a town hall at Provo City Library on Friday, April 5, 2024.
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U.S. Sen. Mike Lee speaks during a town hall hosted by U.S. Senate candidate Trent Staggs in Lindon on Friday, April 5, 2024.
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U.S. Senate candidate Carolyn Phippen speaks during a town hall alongside U.S. Sen. Mike Lee in Lindon on Friday, April 5, 2024.

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee appeared at separate town halls in Utah County on Friday alongside four candidates running to join him in Washington, D.C. — Trent Staggs, Carolyn Phippen, Brad Wilson and Jason Walton.

Lee didn’t indicate any plans to endorse a candidate for a race that would choose his next colleague but did express support for the ideas and platforms of some of the candidates, who are seeking to replace the retiring Mitt Romney.

When taking questions from reporters after an event with Staggs, Lee said he typically doesn’t make endorsements in federal races, especially in Utah, but left the door open that he could change his mind.

Lee said the town halls were a chance to listen to the candidates and watch “what they say and how they interact with people.”

“I always like to see somebody who’s got innovative ideas, and especially innovative ideas or any ideas about how to rein in federal spending or how to rein in federal excesses,” he said on what he looks for in a candidate.

While Lee didn’t have events scheduled with other candidates like U.S. Rep. John Curtis, who’s also in the race, he said he is open to doing events with other candidates who invite him.

Town halls with Staggs and Phippen were in Lindon on Friday afternoon and Lee appeared with Wilson and Walton in Provo on Friday evening.

During the town halls, discussions on federal overreach and regulation, energy policy and foreign policy dominated the conversation.

In Lindon with Staggs, Lee called for more limited government, speaking on what he believed to be federal government overreach, specifically regarding regulations that have been allowed by the executive branch and Congress.

“They’ve neglected the fact that state legislatures are lawmaking bodies of general jurisdiction. The federal legislature, Congress, is a limited-purpose lawmaking entity,” Lee said.

Staggs echoed Lee, adding that “unelected bureaucrats” need to be “put in their place.”

In Provo, speaking to a packed room inside of the city library, Lee and Wilson addressed money being overspent in the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, immigration and protecting public lands.

Wilson criticized the Biden administration’s policies and lax security at the border as reason for the current crisis.

“He (Biden) has the ability to close (the border) now he’s choosing not to. We need to make sure … that we elect Donald Trump this year so that you can help solve this problem,” Wilson said.

Lee commended Wilson’s readiness level and ability to get things done, while also emphasizing his own experience and track record as a conservative leader in the Senate.

Phippen and Lee addressed abortion during her town hall, both agreeing that abortion is now a state issue since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

“It (abortion) should be decided by states and I think we need to stick to that,” Lee said. Phippen, who is the only female Senate candidate, added that she believes states like Utah are “handling the issue very well.”

In discussing energy policy, Staggs called carbon neutrality a “fool’s errand” and said he didn’t believe it would do anything for climate change or global temperatures.

“You’re never going to see me chair a climate caucus,” Staggs said, an obvious stab at Curtis, who created and chaired the Conservative Climate Caucus in the U.S. House.

In regard to energy, Wilson highlighted Utah’s coal-fired electric plants.

Staggs and Lee share a common view on U.S. involvement in the Ukraine-Russia conflict, with Lee saying NATO countries in Europe need to step up in assisting Ukraine.

“This is in Europe’s backyard,” Lee said. Staggs said he “wholeheartedly” agreed with Lee’s stance and expressed he believes a Trump presidency would fix the issue.

Phippen also expressed a similar sentiment on the conflict, saying she’s not a “friend of Putin in any way” but the “Europeans need to step up. It is their backyard, not ours.”

Wilson was asked about several issues that are big topics at home including housing and the Great Salt Lake, both of which he said should be the responsibility of local leaders and not the federal government.

Two of the candidates who held events Friday, Phippen and Staggs, are pursuing the state Republican nomination at the upcoming convention on April 27 and are not gathering signatures. Walton and Wilson are pursuing the convention and signature gathering, with Wilson already gathering enough signatures to be on the primary ballot.


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