On Saturday, the Utah Democratic Party voted to jettison its own nominee and instead throw its support behind independent candidate Evan McMullin in the race for the state’s U.S. Senate seat this November.
CNN reports that, at the party’s occasionally chaotic convention, delegates voted by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent in favor of the motion, rejecting Democratic candidate and former State Department official Kael Weston and officially endorsing McMullin. This will be the first statewide election in Utah’s modern history where the Democrats did not run a candidate in the general election.
“Today, Utah Democrats voted to join Evan McMullin’s cross-partisan coalition and not to nominate a candidate into the 2022 midterm US Senate race,” McMullin’s campaign said in a statement following the vote, claiming that the party chose “instead to put country over party.”
Weston conceded defeat in a statement on Twitter, saying “let’s all help get other Democrats elected this year. And let’s all help defeat Mike Lee — the sooner the better.”
A former CIA agent, McMullin first made a name for himself as a leading figure of the failed Never Trump movement, running for president as an independent candidate in his home state of Utah in 2016; he garnered just under 22 percent of the vote in the state, at roughly 240,000 total votes, behind Hillary Clinton’s 27 percent. In the overall election, McMullin received just 730,000 votes nationwide, amounting to half of one percent.
McMullin, who continued criticizing Trump during his presidency, announced his bid for the Senate as an independent candidate in order to challenge incumbent Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), who was recently endorsed by President Trump. Democrats have falsely claimed that, because Lee texted back and forth with then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about voter fraud in the 2020 election, Lee was somehow part of a conspiracy to subvert democracy.
Although the move by the Democratic Party is seen as successfully rallying the broader anti-Lee coalition behind a single candidate rather than splitting the vote, Lee still remains the overwhelming favorite to win the election. Utah, one of the most heavily Republican states in the nation, voted for President Trump by 58 percent in 2020. Lee was first elected to the Senate as part of the Tea Party wave in 2010, with 62 percent of the vote; he was re-elected with 68 percent in 2016. Lee also maintains a significant advantage in cash-on-hand over McMullin’s campaign.