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Is compromise a dirty word? Republican candidates for 2nd District debate working in Congress

By Alixel Cabrera - Utah News Dispatch | Jun 10, 2024

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News/Pool

Colby Jenkins, left, and Congresswoman Celeste Maloy, Republican candidates for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, debate at the KUED studios at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Monday, June 10, 2024.

In the race for the 2nd Congressional District, the question is whether incumbency or important endorsements have drawn attention to the Republican primary, scheduled on June 25. But, in a debate ahead of the election, the hottest points were centered on immigration and how to reach a compromise in a slight majority in Congress.

Former Congressional staffer and current Rep. Celeste Maloy, who has been in the seat for half a year, faces combat veteran Colby Jenkins for the party’s spot on the ballot this November to represent the district that encompasses Salt Lake City and some rural western and southern areas of the state.

In a debate broadcast by PBS Utah and moderated by podcaster Rod Arquette, Jenkins heavily criticized Maloy’s votes on a sweeping spending bill that funded several federal departments and agencies, including homeland security and defense. He called her nods to the bill a demonstration of “surrendering” and an example of how the slim Republican majority “becomes nothing.”

“When that slim majority allows the minority to pass the $1.2 trillion omnibus spending bill that does nothing to secure our border, that sends $500 billion of your taxpayer dollars to the government of Jordan to secure their border, that’s when a slim majority is failing,” Jenkins said.

Maloy defended her votes, arguing that it was the most fiscally responsible option. She also highlighted that whenever there’s a narrow margin, the ability to compromise is key.

“I don’t compromise on matters of principle and that increases my ability to compromise with my colleagues. They know where I stand. They know that I’m a conservative Republican. They know I represent Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, and that I’m not bending on things that matter for Utah,” Maloy said.

However, when it comes to other choices, such as whether by having a 5% or 10% budget cut some compromises could be achieved, Maloy added. “When you’re unbending, you’re not invited to the table,” she said.

Maloy has taken some “tough votes” during her time in Congress, she said. This is a closely divided government sometimes, but she has explained to her constituents what the wins are in the controversial decisions she has made, she said.

“That’s called leadership. Leadership isn’t throwing out ultimatums for talking points,” she said. “Leadership’s getting in, doing the work and being accountable.”

In Jenkins’ view, however, it’s time for Republicans to fight for the issues the party champions.

“Imagine getting back on the winning side, when you actually are in the majority. That’s what leadership is about,” he said.

Both candidates pledged to vote and work with former President Donald Trump if he’s elected to serve another term in the White House. Jenkins said one of his goals in the House of Representatives would be “to remove legislative obstacles to make sure that the new Trump administration can be successful.”

Solving the lack of agreement on immigration reform begins with the executive branch’s leadership, he said.

Maloy also believes the “border is a mess” and that if Trump gets back in the White House, there will be more political will to implement border security policies.

In the state’s Republican convention, Maloy received the support of 43% of delegates, while Jenkins got 57%. Days before the event, Sen. Mike Lee had endorsed Jenkins in social media and on campaign events. While he didn’t mention Maloy by name, he argued that too many Republicans had helped advance Democrats’s agendas.

Utah News Dispatch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news source covering government, policy and the issues most impacting the lives of Utahns.

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