Nov 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Republican Mike Lee holds on to Utah U.S. Senate seat

Sen. Mike Lee speaking on the microphone with an American flag backdrop.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) speaks during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in Tampa, Floridia, in July.

GOP Sen. Mike Lee won Utah's U.S. Senate race Tuesday night against independent challenger Evan McMullin, securing a third term in office, according to the Associated Press.

By the numbers: As of Tuesday night, the Trump-backed incumbent had garnered about 55.22% of votes, compared to McMullin's 41.33%, preliminary results showed.

What they're saying: "The people of this state, of our great country, deserve nothing less and that is precisely what they will get .... [in the] next six years. The best is yet to come. I can't wait," Lee said during his victory speech in Salt Lake City, thanking voters for his re-election.

  • "Although our coalition did not prevail, we've done something here in Utah that hasn't been done in 50 years. We rejected the politics of division and extremism, and we united," McMullin said in his concession speech. "Unity is what made this election the most competitive in nearly half a century."

Context: This was the most competitive U.S. Senate race Lee has encountered since first winning his seat in 2010. About a week before Nov. 8, an Emerson College survey showed Lee had a 10-percentage-point lead over McMullin.

  • Lee faced intense scrutiny after text messages he reportedly exchanged with former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows revealed he looked into tactics to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
  • Throughout his re-election campaign, Lee repeatedly denied he attempted to undermine the election results.

Between the lines: The Utah Democratic Party was so determined to unseat Lee, it backed McMullin over one of its own candidates to increase its chances of defeating the two-term incumbent.

  • McMullin, a Latter-Day Saint and former CIA officer, had strong name recognition in Utah after he ran as an independent candidate during the 2016 presidential election. Lee said he voted for McMullin in protest of Trump during that election.
  • Democrats hoped McMullin would appeal to the state's moderate voters and Republicans disillusioned by Trump's divisive rhetoric.
  • The party has not sent a Utah Democrat to the Senate in nearly half a century.

Of note: Out of Utah's 1.9 million registered voters, nearly half are Republicans and 14% are Democrats.

What's next: County clerks throughout the state have until Nov. 22 to certify their county's election results.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comments from Lee and McMullin.

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