Sen. Mike Lee of Utah fought off criticism from his independent opponent while trying to set himself apart from former President Donald Trump in a heated discussion on Monday night.
We need individuals who will say no, the second-term Republican said. “I stood against my party time and time again to reject wasteful spending, and I will do it again, again, and again.”
Lee often referred to his voting history and twice informed the Utah Valley University crowd that, except from Rand Paul and Susan Collins, he had cast less votes in support of Trump than all but two Republican senators.
“It’s foolish and contradicted by the obvious facts to claim that I’m tied to either party, that I’ve been a bootlicker for either party,” added Lee.
Evan McMullin, a former Republican who ran unsuccessfully for president six years ago and garnered 21.5% of the vote in Utah, including Lee, will be Lee’s opponent. McMullin has continued to be a cornerstone of the anti-Trump movement and has criticized the former president for being an authoritarian and a danger to democracy.
The unusual dynamics that are unfolding in Utah this election cycle are reflected in Lee’s efforts to set himself apart from Trump. One candidate is running as an independent in the most important contest in the red state, while the other is making an effort to highlight his independent tendencies.
One of the numerous national referendums on the way Trump has led the GOP has taken form as the contest. McMullin is making an effort to capitalize on the anti-Trump feeling that sets Utah apart from other Republican strongholds. As election day draws closer, Lee’s last-minute attempts to distance his voting record from Trump’s beliefs diverge from his previous statements.
Carson Jorgensen, chair of the Utah Republican Party, said, “I don’t believe he’s trying to separate himself from Trump. I think he’s trying to highlight that comparison.”
He said, “No, he’s always stood up for what he thought, especially when it came to Trump.
Utah consistently votes Republican, although its peculiar politics are influenced by religion. The majority of locals are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which values manners highly and forbids alcohol and profanity. Though Republican-leaning, those who belong to the church tend to favor Trump less strongly than other well-known GOP leaders.
In contrast to Joe Biden, who fared better with Utah voters in 2020 than any Democrat before 1964, Trump was unable to get the support of the majority of Utah voters in 2016.
In spite of McMullin’s efforts to portray Lee as one of the previous president’s most devoted followers, Lee emphasizes his readiness to depart from Trump. A new attack commercial from McMullin, based on Lee’s 2020 comments, compares Trump to Captain Moroni, a biblical figure from the Book of Mormon.
In the lead-up to the assault on the United States on January 6, 2021, Lee texted Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows many times. Monday’s debate was McMullin’s first opportunity to personally challenge Lee about these texts. He has made the Capitol the focal point of his campaign.
In the messages, Lee is seen requesting suggestions on how to support attempts to contest the outcome of the 2020 election. In defending his conduct, Lee has said that he only meant to investigate the legal issues and rumors about the submission of phony electors by swing states, adding that he finally voted to certify the results.
Lee sought an apology from McMullin on Monday, claiming that his account of the incident showed a “cavalier, irresponsible contempt for the truth.”
Even though the texts imply that Lee looked into the legitimacy of alternative elector slates before to the election on January 6, Lee claims that they provided no proof that he would have backed such a plan.
When McMullin referred to Lee’s behavior as “a travesty,” the boisterous audience, which was mostly made up of Lee fans, booed and jeered.
McMullin pointed at Lee and stated, “Senator Lee, it was the most flagrant violation of our nation’s Constitution in its history by a U.S. Senator. I think it will be your legacy.”