Utah Democrats back independent candidate Evan McMullin in historic convention

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Evan McMullin ran an unsuccessful campaign against Donald Trump in 2016. The Utah Democratic Party voted to back independent candidate Evan McMullin in the Democratic convention this past weekend. (AP News)

The Utah Democratic Party voted to back independent candidate Evan McMullin in the Democratic convention on April 23 — an unprecedented attempt to vote out Sen. Mike Lee in the November election. 

This decision could have a major impact on Utah’s senate race and the overall future of politics in the state. The move marks an important shift from Democrats in Utah to create a more moderate political climate and shows how urgently the Utah Democratic Party wants Lee out of the Utah Senate.

The convention was held in Murray, Utah on Saturday. McMullin received 782 votes, compared to Democratic candidate Kael Weston’s 594.

McMullin, the independent candidate who ran a campaign for president in 2016 against Donald Trump, is running a campaign centered on replacing Lee. 

The BYU graduate and former CIA officer tweeted Saturday’s vote was “an important step in building a new coalition of Democrats, Republicans and independents to change our broken politics.”

According to his website, McMullin hopes to “defeat extremist politicians” and create a more moderate political environment in Utah. 

The historic decision comes after Lee’s texts with former chief of staff Mark Meadows were released by CNN on April 15. The texts show Lee assisting Donald Trump in overturning the 2020 election. He first texted Meadows on Nov. 7 with a statement from several conservative groups encouraging Trump to “use it however you deem appropriate.”

On April 28, McMullin responded to a video from the Salt Lake Tribune of Lee avoiding questions about the text messages tweeting, “is this the behavior of an accountable leader?”

McMullin also took to Twitter on April 26 promising that as a senator he would not “text the President’s chief of staff about overturning an election.”

Sen. Mike Lee during Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing. Lee has been a Utah senator since 2011. (AP News)

Weston urged Utahans to elect more Democrats and to defeat Lee. “I respect their decision and will continue to work hard in the months and years ahead to help bring political balance in our fast-growing and diversifying state,” Weston said on Twitter. 

At the Republican Convention on April 23, Lee faced two GOP candidates and won with over 70% of the vote with 2,621 votes.

“We have got to take a stand as Utahns,” McMullin told reporters on Saturday at the convention. “I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or an independent or a Republican or a member of the United Utah Party, this is a line that cannot be crossed, our right to hold our leaders accountable and to vote for or against them and have a peaceful transition of power is essential for liberty and justice in America. We cannot compromise on that, and we must all be united to defend it.”

Utah has not elected a Democrat to the Senate for over 50 years. The primaries for the Senate election are scheduled for June 28 and a senator will be officially elected in November.

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