What to know in the Senate primary between Sen. Mike Lee, Becky Edwards and Ally Isom
Two-term incumbent Sen. Mike Lee will face two Republican challengers in the June 28 primary election for U.S. Senate: Becky Edwards, a former state legislator, and Ally Isom, a business leader.
Edwards and Isom both qualified for the ballot through signature gathering. Lee also gathered signatures, and GOP delegates overwhelmingly chose him as their candidate at the state party’s nominating convention in April.
Recent polling among likely Republican voters shows Lee is favored to win the primary, but his challengers have argued it’s time for new leadership in Congress.
County clerks will begin to mail ballots to voters on June 7.
Methodology: An identical survey was sent to all three campaigns. Provided answers were fact-checked prior to the publishing of this guide. In all instances, answers will begin with the incumbent candidate and the challengers will follow in alphabetical order by surname.
What are your top 3 priorities in Congress?
Sen. Mike Lee: (The senator’s answers were shortened for length)
- Congress has recklessly printed and spent money for years, and now the American people are paying for this recklessness through rampant inflation. I’ve opposed every reckless spending bill in Washington, and I look forward to leading the way to a more fiscally responsible future.
- Overreach during COVID demonstrated the risk of an unchecked regulatory state. Now we see woke brainwashing in our schools, ESG scores in our financial markets, big tech censorship, the regulatory shutdown of American energy, and immigration policy enacted through executive fiat. It’s time to rein in the unchecked and unelected administrative state.
- Strengthening America’s faith in our institutions. I’m fighting to bolster the integrity of the Supreme Court and the federal court system. I’ve fought to balance power with the Executive Branch, which is currently trapped in the impossible position of trying to be everything to everyone. No one has fought harder to advance the cause of federalism, which suggests Americans will get more of what they want out of government if state and local governments play a bigger role in solving our biggest challenges.
- Energy independence
- fiscal responsibility
- family prosperity.
- Reduce inflation and strengthen the economy
- Defend Utah's water and advocate for water infrastructure
- Restore American energy leadership.
What are the top 3 issues you believe Utahns face today?
Sen. Mike Lee:
- As the ranking member of the Joint Economic Committee, we released a state inflation tracker. Our data show that Utahns are experiencing some of the highest Inflation rates nationwide.
- Unaffordable housing
- Government overreach
- Severe drought
- A lack of affordable housing.
- Economic uncertainty
- High energy prices.
What are ways the federal government can address Utah’s affordable housing crisis?
Sen. Mike Lee: I’ve introduced legislation that will allow local cities and towns to acquire federal land nearby and use the land to develop affordable housing. I’ve introduced several pieces of legislation to ease supply chain constraints that are driving up housing costs. We need to strengthen American energy to keep energy costs low.
Becky Edwards: This is a crisis that demands a practical and efficient approach. Affordable housing is an issue that impacts all industries, and taking a comprehensive look at the available solutions will help us create a robust, long-term plan for economic prosperity in our state. Congress should protect the National Housing Trust Fund, rebalance tax credit mixes to create more housing access where the need is greatest, and provide cost-efficient renovations to existing affordable units. We should support Utah housing advocates, pursue cost-effective inventory expansions, and encourage any federal funding to projects where it is most needed.
Ally Isom: Rather than blunt force or undermining the market, at the federal level we should use a surgical approach on housing. The most successful federal approaches focus on financing rather than supply. What we should not do is build a lot of cheap homes or apartments subsidized with tax dollars that can then be sold at market value by owners a few years down the road.
What policies would you propose to take on Utah’s climate risks (drought, wildfires, etc.) and ensure a more sustainable future?
Sen. Mike Lee: The federal government manages most of Utah’s land and most of Utah’s water. Unfortunately, the federal government’s track record in managing all of these resources is proving to be an impossible job for the federal government. Utah has a great track record of responsibly managing public lands and caring for its environment, and Utah should be playing a much bigger role in controlling its resources.
Becky Edwards: My work to pass the first resolution on climate change in a red state showed me that a sustainable future demands a robust and practical approach to all climate risks, focusing on long-term viability and innovation.
We need to take steps to reduce our emissions while supporting our oil and gas-reliant communities. We should work towards diversifying our energy portfolio by encouraging clean energy growth, innovation, and infrastructure to produce new jobs and reduce our emissions. We need to preserve water as a life-sustaining resource by advocating for water optimization, infrastructure upgrades, and healthy forests.
Ally Isom: I have tremendous confidence in Utah's tech sector and the power of innovation when incentives are in the right places. I support direct air capture, both biologic and geologic carbon sequestration, and next-gen nuclear power generation. Because we are an interconnected world, every viable solution requires global cooperation and partnership.
Under what circumstances should people have access to abortion?
Sen. Mike Lee: Abortion should be limited only to circumstances when the mother’s life is at risk or in the case of rape or incest.
Becky Edwards: The decision to have an abortion is not something women take lightly, and the circumstances surrounding that decision are nuanced and deeply personal. I believe that any circumstance where a woman might consider having an abortion should be discussed between her and her healthcare provider so they can weigh all options and outcomes in confidence.
Ally Isom: Unless and until the law changes, access should be provided under the circumstances defined by current law. For more detail on this incredibly complex issue, please see allyforutah.com.
What is one issue you plan to work across the aisle on?
Sen. Mike Lee: I recently introduced bipartisan legislation to create antitrust oversight for big tech.
Becky Edwards: One issue that is top of mind for Americans is inflation. The lack of fiscal responsibility by members of Congress demands a bipartisan approach if we ever hope to prepare for another economic emergency. It's time for our elected officials to come together and find solutions to reduce government spending and champion a balanced budget.
Ally Isom: All of them, but to begin with, economic prosperity and reducing inflation.
What sets you apart from your opponents in terms of policy?
Sen. Mike Lee: I am a consistent conservative with a solid track record that demonstrates I will vote for Utah values when it comes to reducing spending, limited government, religious liberty, right to bear arms, privacy rights, low taxes, national security and upholding the Constitution.
Becky Edwards: In our political climate, our elected officials have traded the needs of their constituents for their political ambitions. In all of my policymaking, a common-sense approach to finding solutions is top of mind. I intend to bring more proactive, productive, and inclusive solutions to Washington. My commitment to collaboration and to making real change for Utahns is what guides those solutions.
Ally Isom: First, Mike and I agree on core conservative principles, but diverge when he sends the wrong message at the wrong time. He was the single nay vote on the Violence Against Women Act [Editor’s note: Lee joined 30 other senators in opposing the bill in 2012.] and the Colorado memorial for a Japanese-American internment camp [Editor’s note: Lee initially held up the bill but later supported it after further negotiations.], and one of two nays on 9/11 First Responders support. I 1000% agree about debt and public lands, but there are ways — earlier in the process — to improve those bills. I won't wait until the cameras are hot just to score points on cable TV. Second, we disagree on term limits; it is something I will pursue relentlessly. He was noticeably absent as a sponsor on the last term limits bill. I will serve two terms.
Do you believe in Congressional term limits? Why or why not?
Sen. Mike Lee: I have regularly co-sponsored legislation to enact term limits, but term limits will only work if they are implemented through the law and applied equally to all members of Congress. As long as Congress is a body that privileges seniority, any commitment to “self-term-limit” will disenfranchise Utahns and unravel any coalition to enact term limits through the law. I have never supported “self-term-limits.”
Becky Edwards: When I won my seat in the Utah House of Representatives, I vowed to limit my service to 10 years. I kept that promise, and I did so because democracy works best when we bring new voices to the table. By limiting the number of terms an elected official can serve, voters can be encouraged to support candidates that reflect their vision for a better future, not a position of seniority.
Ally Isom: Yes, and I have unequivocally committed to serving two terms. When a senator stays too long in Washington, Washington becomes corrosive and special interests can be controlling. The leader stops listening and will say or do whatever it takes to retain power, fueling contrived political theater, loving a microphone more than their oath of office. Seniority does not matter like it used to. It's time for change agents and disruptors. We have tough decisions to make if we are to change the direction we are headed.
Do you believe the 2020 election was a free, fair, and secure election?
Sen. Mike Lee: The 2020 election was a free, fair, and secure election, but more can and should be done to restore confidence in our election system. [Editor’s note: Text messages between Lee and former Trump administration Chief of Staff Mark Meadows show the senator initially advised and encouraged the White House in its efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.]
Becky Edwards: Utah has some of the safest and most secure elections in the country, and the methods used to verify the results of the 2020 election, here and nationwide, proved that it was valid.
Ally Isom: The American people need to be confident in election outcomes. I am satisfied that since every state certified the 2020 outcome, no state legislature recalled their electors or submitted an alternate slate of electors, and not one of the 63 lawsuits filed was successful, it is time to stop looking back and start looking forward to 2024. That said, as we move forward, all states should review their systems, enhance security (particularly cyber security), clean up voter rolls, and ensure their process to identify voters prevents foul play.
How would you ensure all voters have better access to participation in elections?
Sen. Mike Lee: The caucus/convention system is the best system for creating access to participation in elections. It is unfortunate we changed this system.
Becky Edwards: Voting is a fundamental and critical feature of our democratic republic, and I believe protecting all people’s right to vote is an essential tenet of a strong democracy.
I support good voting policies that will make voting more accessible, grow voter participation, and keep our elections secure. However, federal omnibus bills fail to offer the opportunity to debate the best available solutions properly. Some voting measures that I would support and improve nationwide: are early voting, no-excuse absentee ballots, same-day voter registration, online voter registration, and accessible paper ballots.
Ally Isom: The key is reducing barriers and increasing efficacy. I support broader voter registration efforts, electronic signatures for petitions and open primary elections. People need to know their vote makes a difference and defines their future.
How would you characterize the identity of the GOP today?
Sen. Mike Lee: The GOP is a body of diverse individuals with the common goal of bettering the lives of Americans by promoting the free market, deregulation, and individual freedom.
Becky Edwards: Republicans across the country are doing important work finding solutions to our nation's unprecedented challenges. Here in Utah, Republican leadership has brought us immense economic growth, opportunity, and innovation. Still, I believe that many of the issues we face as a country will require more collaboration and bipartisanship than we've seen in the past. Division in government affects all of us, but by building bridges and working together, we can bring Republican values to any piece of legislation—that is how we create more proactive, productive, and inclusive solutions.
Ally Isom: The party is more divided than ever, distracted by culture wars and personalities. It's time to unite around our core principles and define what it means to be conservative. I’ve been a grassroots GOP worker for 25+ years, worked for two Republican governors and helped numerous good Republicans run for office. I care deeply about the party's future. We can do better. We can listen better, speak with respect, affirm our fellow Americans and find our way forward. It’s not about being right; it’s about getting it right. To get it right, we need everyone at the table, fully engaged in good faith, and looking forward.
For fun: Who is your favorite Utah-based musician or musical group?
Sen. Mike Lee: Brandon Flowers of The Killers
Becky Edwards: Lower Lights. No question.
Ally Isom: Ally at 10yrs- Marie Osmond. At 20yrs- Peter Brienholt, Ryan Shupe & The Rubber Band. At 30yrs- Brandon Flowers/The Killers, The Five Browns. At 40yrs- Mindy Gledhill, Tyler Glenn / Neon Trees. At 50yrs- Imagine Dragons, Paul Cardall.