Axios Salt Lake City

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October 17, 2022

Buenos días. It's Monday. Enjoy that crisp morning breeze.

  • 🌞 Today's weather: Mostly sunny, with a high of 74°.

🏈 Situational awareness: The Utes moved up five spots to No. 15 in the AP's top 25 rankings after upsetting the USC Trojans Saturday night.

  • BYU lost at home to the Arkansas Razorbacks 52-35.

Today's newsletter is 698 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: The independent in deep-red Utah

Photo illustration collage of Evan McMullin surrounded by ballot elements.

Photo Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios. Photo: George Frey/Getty Images.

In the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection, Evan McMullin says he knew he needed to step up his efforts to prevent a crumbling of the nation's democracy.

The latest: Now, nearly two years after the harrowing events at the Capitol, McMullin, a former CIA officer, is preparing for the most consequential race of his life.

What's happening: McMullin, an anti-Trump conservative and independent candidate in Utah's Senate race, is challenging incumbent GOP Sen. Mike Lee. They debate today at 6pm at Utah Valley University.

By the numbers: A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll released last week found 41% of registered voters said they would cast a ballot for Lee, while 37% said they would vote for McMullin.

State of play: McMullin is betting on a coalition of Democrats, disillusioned Republicans and unaffiliated voters in Utah to defeat Lee.

Catch up quick: In an unprecedented move, Utah Democrats decided to back McMullin over one of their own during the primaries to increase their chances of defeating Lee.

  • For the past 48 years, Utahns have only elected Republicans to the U.S. Senate. Lee has called McMullin "a Democrat in disguise."

Between the lines: "An independent always has an uphill climb in any election," said Damon Cann, a political science professor at Utah State University, "but the polling shows that he's within striking distance and has a legitimate shot."

Context: The Senate race comes six years after McMullin's unsuccessful 2016 presidential campaign as an independent candidate.

  • Still, he managed to receive 21.5% of Utahns' votes. That's the highest amount of support an independent presidential candidate has received in a state since 1992, according to The Washington Post.
  • But Lee, a Trump loyalist, won the 2016 Senate race with about 70% of the vote. Trump has also endorsed Lee in this year's race.

The other side: Despite the close polling, Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, said Lee remains in the driver's seat.

Full story

2.💧House District 2 candidates debate

U.S. House District 2 candidates

(L-R) Cassie Easley, Nick Mitchell and Chris Stewart. Photo: Asher Swan for the Deseret News/Pool

GOP U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, Democrat Nick Mitchell and Constitution Party nominee Cassie Easley sparred at Utah's 2nd Congressional District debate Friday evening.

The issue: Water. About half the state is experiencing severe drought, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System. The decades-long dry spell could prove economically devastating to Utah.

  • One college student asked the candidates to share their thoughts on how the federal government could alleviate our water issues.

What they're saying: Stewart said water conservation measures were necessary, particularly with lawns.

  • "We pray that God will be merciful and will ease the drought, but until that happens we've got to do the things that we can do to protect and to manage the water that we do have."

Mitchell said people needed to shift their mindsets regarding water issues and allow grass to turn brown.

  • "We are in this together, the entire Southwest. If the Colorado [River] runs dry, Utah will become unlivable," he said. "We need to start using less. We do need to conserve."

Easley said the federal government was not keeping up with watersheds and said she would hold them accountable.

What's next: Vote-by-mail ballots will be sent this week for the Nov. 8 election.

3. Fry Sauce: Bite-sized news

Illustration of a neon sign with a rotating, spiked sphere on top that reads Fry Sauce.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🛒 Trader Joe's has plans to open a new store in Draper by early next year. (The Salt Lake Tribune)

  • Yes, but: Don't expect to stock up on the chain's Two Buck Chuck wine due to Utah's strict alcohol laws.

👀 Sen. Mitt Romney's aides were irked at Sen. Mike Lee for pressuring him on Fox News for his endorsement, sources say. (The Washington Post)

💉 The bivalent COVID-19 booster shot is now available to children as young as 5 years old. (Deseret News)

💭 Have a solution for climate change? The University of Utah's new Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy is giving away $1.5 million for the best idea. (

A Salt Lake City man wants Utah to open a shelter for men experiencing domestic violence. (KUTV)

4. 🎃 Pic du jour: Spooky Jack-O-Lanterns

Two carved pumpkins in candlelight

The pumpkins we carved. Photo: Kim Bojórquez

Kim here. Over the weekend, I spent my evening pumpkin carving with friends and watching "Halloween Ends."

Contest: Send us photos of your decorated pumpkins for a chance to win some Axios swag. We'll feature the best ones on Halloween.

Is a new job in your future?

💼 Check out who's hiring around the city.

  1. Technical Product Owner (Cloud Architecture) at Dish Network.
  2. Director, Clubhouse 24 at Endeavor.
  3. Veterinary Relations Partner at Thrive Pet Healthcare.

Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

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👻 Kim is making her own version of this viral Halloween spread.

😎 Erin is back today!

This newsletter was edited by Ross Terrell.