Sen. Mike Lee Still Looking Strong in Utah

Rick Bowmer/AP
Rick Bowmer/AP

Utah Policy is out with a poll and a story suggesting Josh Romney might prove to be a tough primary candidate for otherwise popular Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee. With no indication from Romney he’s even interested in running and Lee enjoying broad GOP support in Utah, it’s doubtful any challenge would be effective – even if one did come to pass. The backstory may be the only real news here.

Sen. Mike Lee might face a tough race for the GOP nomination in 2016 from Josh Romney while Jim Matheson is the clear choice among Democrats for their nomination.

One needn’t look much further than a few links, including a late December Politico item, to understand precisely what’s going on. First, keep in mind that Lee likely forestalled any serious challenge with this announcement in March.

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.

Huntsman, Jr.’s support is key, as Lee’s primary critic in this case is Huntsman, Sr. – as Deseret News reported here.

Huntsman Sr. also described Lee as “an extremist” whose role in the government shutdown cost the Huntsman Cancer Institute millions of dollars and hurt nearby national parks.

Note that, not only is Huntsman, Jr. now in Lee’s camp, so is Scott Anderson, mentioned here in the Politico item referenced above. In short, Lee appears to have very effectively managed to set himself up to win any primary, along with re-election, in a walk.

Scott Anderson, a prominent bank president in Salt Lake City, has privately commissioned polls to assess Lee’s race while meeting with some of his prospective foes to gauge their interest.

In the aftermath of the (government) shutdown, Anderson met with prospective foes to the Utah senator, including Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who declined to run, and others like Wright, the former state GOP chairman, who is considering a primary challenge. Sources said he has spoken with Josh Romney, the son of former Gov. Mitt Romney, and University of Utah political scientist Kirk Jowers, as well as Beattie. (Romney did not return multiple inquiries about his interest in the race, while Jowers declined to comment on whether he was considering a bid.)

Chaffetz said the polling “was very flattering to me,” but he made clear he had no intention of running in the Senate race and supported Lee.

“He’s a good friend, a good messenger of the conservative cause,” Chaffetz said of Lee.

A couple of months before this November’s elections, Anderson met with Huntsman in his Salt Lake City office to show polling Jones had conducted on the Lee race, detailing how the senator could be vulnerable with primary voters after the Utah GOP convention in 2016, according to Huntsman.


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