Commentary: Republican Sen. Mike Lee merits reelection
The U.S. Senate campaign in Utah has been the most expensive in history — as inside and outside interests calculate that the outcome may affect whether Democrats or Republicans control the Senate.
We recently sat down for an extended conversation with both candidates. Both came across as intelligent, well-spoken and informed on the issues. Both had a keen grasp on the issues the country faces, and each had his own ideas of how best to move forward. Clearly, we have two strong candidates in the race. Utahns should be proud and thankful that both candidates have deep knowledge of Utah and profound respect for the Constitution. Utahns should be thankful that both candidates have been open and available on the debate stage and to the press.
Sen. Mike Lee has been a strong Republican as he unabashedly challenged Democrat priorities and President Joe Biden’s recent record on inflation, the economy and government over-regulation. “I ran for the Senate the first time because I believe the federal government has become too big and too expensive, in part because it’s doing too many things that it wasn’t designed to do,” Lee said. He’s always quick to cite a passage in the Constitution.
Lee has turned regularly to his campaign endorsements by 48 Republican senators — suggesting his broad alignment with Republican priorities. (Sen. Mitt Romney has, of course, stayed on the sidelines.)
While explaining his views, McMullin described his goal to build a cross-partisan coalition with Republicans, Democrats and independents as well as find common ground between all political viewpoints to solve problems. “I’ll tell you that I’m already taking phone calls from people on both sides of the of the aisle in the Senate, wondering if we can work together on this issue or that issue. It’s already happening,” he said.
McMullin also said his victory would make Utah “the most powerful state in the Union,” using West Virginia as an example. There, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin has attracted a great deal of media and political attention — as well as power — as a swing vote in the Senate.
Utah voters should be skeptical. A key part of Manchin’s tactics has been negotiation, which always involves both sides giving something up in order to get something they want. In the end, Manchin’s negotiations turned out to be between the extremes of the Democrat Party. The signature Manchin-Schumer “Inflation Reduction Act” didn’t bridge any party lines. All 50 Republican senators voted against it.
In a time when our country is becoming more polarized, we do applaud efforts to find common ground. However, it is not always in Utah’s best interest to negotiate, and finding common ground is not always the best solution. Sometimes one must refuse to give way.
Lee explained that the question is not whether to compromise — it’s where and where not to compromise. We agree. For both conservatives and liberals, many issues are non-negotiable. Lee has a strong record of voting to support conservative initiatives while voting against bills with items that violated conservative values. He has also approached those on the other side of the aisle while championing an issue he believed both sides could support.
We believe it is more aligned with Utah’s best interests to have a senator who will stand strong when it comes to championing our state’s conservative values. Utah is on the whole a conservative state and a Republican state.
McMullin may have been a stronger candidate as a Republican. Utahns then would have more clarity regarding whom he would align with in Congress. As an independent, it is unknown on what side of the political fence he will fall or where his negotiations will lead him. Currently, there are two independents in the Senate, and both caucus with the Democrats. As The Associated Press has reported, “The outside spending supporting him also illustrates … the emerging reality that some Democratic Party-aligned groups and donors see McMullin … as one path toward preventing Republicans from controlling the Senate.” An independent who gets big funding from Democratic-aligned groups — and little from Republican-aligned groups — looks like a Democrat.
McMullin has certainly put a stake in the ground on one issue. As he told us, “I saw that Trump wanted to become a dictator.” While some slice of Republicans may want to prioritize an anti-Trump agenda, Congresswoman Liz Cheney certainly didn’t find much leverage with that position. The issues most important to Utahns — tackling inflation, the economy and reducing crime — are the Republican priorities versus the national Democrat agenda.
Utah — certainly outside of Salt Lake City — has been voting 60% and even 70% Republican. Republican incumbent Sen. Lee’s priorities and his mainstream Republican record in Congress the past six years make him the right choice to represent Utah in Washington. It’s the more certain way to ensure Utah’s best interests are protected.
Jim Konig is publisher of the Standard-Examiner and Daily Herald. Craig Conover is general manager of the Daily Herald.