Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), one of the leading conservatives in the U.S. Senate, is now set to coast to re-election, as any threat of any serious primary challenge from the GOP establishment has officially vanished.
On Wednesday, Lee announced his campaign’s re-election committee with two co-chairs who would have previously either challenged Lee—or been the two crucial backers of a Lee challenger—meaning that Lee will now be able to focus his efforts on furthering constitutional conservatism on a national level rather than being stuck in a battle in Utah against the GOP establishment.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr., and Zions Bank CEO Scott Anderson will co-chair Lee’s re-election committee, Lee announced ahead of his formal re-election campaign announcement.
Others joining Lee’s re-election committee include: Ambassador John Price, Steve Price, Harris Simmons, Don Hartman, Paul Hutchinson, John Pestana, David Kirkham, Lew Cramer, Jonathan Coon, former Governor Norman Bangerter, and former Congressman Jim Hansen. This is a massive in-state power play by Lee, and a sign that his vision of grassroots conservatism is becoming the dominant force in Utah politics—rather than old guard Republicanism.
Huntsman had previously ruled out running against Lee, but at the time—in mid-February—wouldn’t rule out backing any potential challenger to him, and said he had “no formal plans” to help Lee’s re-election. That’s now obviously changed as Lee now has his professional support.
“I am thankful to these good friends for stepping up and engaging on my behalf as part of my reelection committee,” Lee said in a statement. “There is immense talent in this committee and I look forward to gaining from their insight and wisdom in the days ahead.”
Huntsman praised Lee in his statement.
“I have known, worked with, and admired Mike Lee for many years,” Huntsman said.
He is at the forefront of a new generation of leaders in Washington and I am excited to assist him as Co-Chair of his national reelection committee. Senator Lee is working to broaden, reform and reinvigorate the Republican Party. He understands the importance of rebuilding the trust of the American people in their government which is critical to our future success.
So did Anderson.
“It is an honor to co-chair Senator Lee’s national reelection committee with former Governor Huntsman,” Anderson said. “Mike Lee’s impact and influence in the US Senate continues to grow as he collaborates on an agenda focused on meaningful reform and empowering good people to strengthen their communities.”
Lee’s campaign spokesman Boyd Matheson was excited about the announcement in his statement.
“This committee is comprised of a diverse group of individuals that is indicative of Senator Lee’s approach governing and his vision for leading a positive agenda,” Matheson said. “The Senator is committed to raising Utah’s voice in Congress by uniting people from across the political spectrum around common sense solutions.”
Lee is the chairman of the conservative Senate Steering Committee, a post from which he’s been able to—in a very short time—push most of the Senate GOP conference in a more conservative direction.
He’s championing the “conservative reform agenda,” a series of positive reforms to get government out of people’s lives. He’s been called the most important Republican not running for president by the Weekly Standard magazine, and kicked off CPAC this year as the first major speaker—something he was praised for by ACU chairman Matt Schlapp. Lee has been one of the tireless voices for conservatism against the political establishment of both parties, often speaking out against big government when only a few–or sometimes no one–would join him.
He’s very close to potential 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) as well, and Cruz just hired Lee’s communications director Brian Phillips–an extraordinarily talented political operator who’s been crucial to much of Lee’s success–to be part of the communications team his presidential campaign-in-waiting.