Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Former State Representative Becky Edwards Is First Major Republican To Challenge Mike Lee In Senate Race

A photo of a woman standing in front of a podium with others holding signs behind her on a staircase.
Sonja Hutson
Former Rep. Becky Edwards announced she is running for U.S. Senate in the Utah Capitol rotunda.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, officially has his first major Republican challenger in his 2022 re-election bid. Former Utah state Rep. Becky Edwards announced her candidacy Thursday, promising to pursue conservative solutions to issues like healthcare, higher wages and climate change.

“For 10 years, our senator has failed to deliver for our state,” Edwards said. “He put his personal political ambitions before your needs. Utah deserves so much better.”

Lee has faced criticism for his support of former President Donald Trump, including comparing him to The Book of Mormon military commander Captain Moroni during a campaign rally last year.

Edwards promised to represent all Utahns, not just Republicans. She vowed to listen to her constituents' needs and not use her time in the Senate to pursue her own political aspirations.

“It’s time to elect a U.S. Senator that will work for you,” she said. “Like most Utahns, I’ve watched as politics have become divisive and dysfunctional. Things need to change. It’s time we have a leader in Washington who will stop bickering, and just put the people of Utah first.”

Lee’s office and his campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Edwards served as a state representative for North Salt Lake for 10 years before retiring in 2018. She was a traditionally conservative lawmaker who had a reputation for a moderate tone and reaching across the aisle, according to University of Utah political scientist Dave Buhler.

According to a January poll from the Deseret News, 69% of Republican approve of Lee’s job performance. The incumbent senator’s re-election campaign reported to the Federal Election Commission that, as of March 31, it had nearly $1 million of cash on hand. That means any challenger to Lee faces an uphill battle, Buhler said.

“He'll be formidable, there's no doubt about it,” Buhler said. “As a sitting senator, he has the opportunity to raise a lot of money from interest groups and PACs and so forth. He has a somewhat high national profile, particularly in conservative circles.”

But, unseating Lee isn’t impossible, Buhler said.

“I'm sure Sen. Lee is very much aware it can happen,” he said. “Sen. Lee himself, as an unknown basically in the state, challenged a sitting Republican Senator, Bob Bennett, in 2010 and defeated him.”

Another Republican — Brendan Wright from Utah County — announced in March he is challenging Lee. The Daily Herald reported that Wright is a Lehi resident and works for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Corrected: May 28, 2021 at 8:58 AM MDT
This story has been corrected to add that Brendan Wright announced his candidacy in March.
Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.