Evan McMullin loses race for U.S. Senate to Mike Lee

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U.S. Senate independent candidate Evan McMullin talks to attendees at his watch party in Taylorsville on Nov. 8. McMullin participated in one of the closest Senate races Utah has seen in the last few years against incumbent Republican Sen. Mike Lee. (Andrea Zapata)

Provo-born independent candidate Evan McMullin was defeated in his bid for a seat in the U.S. Senate by Utah Sen. Mike Lee on Nov. 8.

As of 11:30 p.m. on Election Day, Lee led the race with 55% of the vote, while McMullin has 41%.

In his concession speech, McMullin said the unprecedented coalition between independents, Republicans and Democrats that formed to support his campaign had to stick together because “America does stand at the crossroads between democracy and despotism.”

“I truly hope that he upholds his oath to the Constitution during his upcoming term,” McMullin said of Lee’s Senate race victory.

McMullin also highlighted that independents, Republicans, Democrats and members of third parties had gathered to stand by a cross-partisan coalition.

“We’ve come together around the idea that the people should come first, not party biases and not special interests,” McMullin said. “We’ve come together in a historic way, and this effort, our effort, has shown the country that there is another way forward, a more constructive way forward for our politics and for our nation.”

During his race, McMullin said he would not caucus with either of the parties. However, he counted on backing from the Democrats and was endorsed by the Utah Democratic Party earlier this year.

“Our coalition stands united for truth in the face of politically motivated violence. Our coalition stands united for decency in the dace of attacks on the principles of democracy,” McMullin said. “Our coalition stands united in defense of our founding ideals and in the face of events of cynicism and extremism. Our coalition offers a more constructive and hopeful way forward for our politics and for our nation.”

The race between Lee and McMullin has been one of the most followed Senate races in the U.S. among other states such as Arizona, Nevada and Georgia.

This race was also the most expensive Utah political race ever, having cost more than $30 million, according to opensecrets.org. The website bases election spending on Federal Election Commission campaign finance reports.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson tweeted just before drop boxes closed in Utah at 8 p.m. that delays in preliminary election results were to be expected. The delay was attributed to long lines at the polls in several counties. She also said all voters who were in line at 8 p.m. would have the chance to vote.

“We have Weber, Davis, Beaver, Cache, Emery, Juan, Miller, Piute and Rich,” Lee’s campaign manager Matt Lusty said an hour after the drop boxes had closed. “We do know excitingly that each one of those we’re actually beating the benchmark set by our field director so we’re actually pacing ahead of ourselves a little bit right now.”

During the independent candidate’s watch party, attendees watched a CNN livestream showing election results around the nation and cheered for the Republican and Democratic candidates’ victories.

McMullin’s loss means that Utah’s two senate seats will remain with the Republican party.

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