As before, in my 2022 election guide I’ll comment almost exclusively on races which appear on my own ballot. This post looks at two races for national office; the next will consider state, county, and local races. The race for one of Utah’s US Senate seats pits two-term incumbent Republican Mike Lee against three challengers named on the ballot and some write-in candidates. The leading challenger is Evan McMullin, who appears on the ballot as unaffiliated but has the Utah Democratic Party endorsement and relies heavily on Democratic money. The race for US House of Representatives in Utah’s 3rd District has 2.5-term incumbent Republican John Curtis facing three challengers, including Democrat Glenn J. Wright.
I’ll provide links to the Senate candidates’ official campaign websites and to the one debate in the race. Then I’ll tell you what I think. Then I’ll do the same for the House race, but more briefly. Finally, for any reader who hasn’t had enough already, I’ll say more about Mike Lee and Evan McMullin.
In presenting my own views, I’ll focus on the two leading contenders in each race. The third-party and write-in candidates are unlikely to move the needle. In case you’re curious, the relatively new United Utah Party, which wants us to want them — hat tip to Cheap Trick — has no candidate in either race.
US Senate Race – Mike Lee, Evan McMullin, and five more
Here’s the US Senate section of my ballot:
According to the Ogden Standard-Examiner, three Utahns have registered as write-in candidates in this race: Laird Hamblin, Abraham Korb, and Michael Seguin.
I’ve seen little or no advertising for Hansen, Williams, or the write-ins, but out-of-state interests have poured trainloads of money into ads for and against Lee and McMullin. I wouldn’t put much trust in third-party ads on either side. As usual, they’re a fairly comprehensive study in using half-truths and out-of-context words and facts to deceive and inflame. But the candidates’ own websites are worth a look:
- Senator Mike Lee (Republican) – https://leeforsenate.com/
- Evan McMullin (Unaffiliated but endorsed by the Utah Democratic Party) – https://evanmcmullin.com/
- James Arthur Hansen (Libertarian) – https://www.jimmyforutah.com/
- Tommy Williams (Independent American Party) – https://tommywilliams4u.tripod.com/home.html
- Laird Hamblin (write-in) – https://lairdsenate.us/
- Abraham Korb (write-in) – no website found
- Michael Seguin (write-in but wants to [re]create the Bull Moose Party) – https://utahbullmooseparty.com/
Lee and McMullin faced each other in the campaign’s only head-to-head debate on October 17. I watched it later on YouTube. It wasn’t a classic. Senator Lee is intelligent and knowledgeable but not a great debater, and Evan McMullin, well …
Ahem. What follows is my opinion and analysis, with no pretense of neutrality. If you’re trying to avoid opinion here, please skip to the section on the House race.
My Vote for US Senate
Before we discuss the debate, I’ll put my cards on the table. I’ll be voting for Mike Lee. I’ve watched him since the beginning of his first term, and he’s been my favorite US Senator for some time. I voted for Evan McMullin in the 2016 presidential race (see here and here and here). So did Lee, I believe. But by early 2017 it was clear that McMullin is not the intelligent conservative he impersonated in that race.
So my short take on Evan McMullin is this: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. He won’t fool me twice.
In an unsurprising irony, McMullin chooses to portray Lee — an unusually independent Republican — as a boot-licking party loyalist. This allows McMullin more easily to claim the badge of independence for himself.
I’ll list more reasons for my preference below, but first let’s turn to the debate.
My View of the Lee-McMullin Debate
If you watch (or watched) the debate looking for something different in Evan McMullin, something — dare I say — independent, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. He delivered a careful selection of Democrat talking points, sprinkled with more moderate things even Democrats have to say to get elected in Utah. He was politics-as-usual, which might not bear mentioning, except that he presents himself as the moral and patriotic antidote to politics-as-usual.
Mike Lee is not a great orator or debater, but at least he offered some substance, in terms of policy. McMullin offered little clarity about his own policy intentions. He was too busy pushing well-worn buttons in order to discredit his opponent, and pushing them a bit too hard: special interest groups, extremists, partisanship over unity, January 6, the Republicans want to take away all that you hold dear, and so on.
McMullin claimed that his is a message of “unity and truth” against his opponent’s “politics of division, extremism, and lies.” (Raise your hand if that message sounds familiar from the 2020 presidential election. Fool us once, shame on them?) You may watch the debate and think him courageous, even heroic. I found him sanctimonious, condescending, and not convincingly independent. But I have a considerable advantage: I’ve been watching Mike Lee for too many years to believe McMullin’s version of him.
McMullin tried to have his rhetorical cake and eat it too. He decried irresponsible spending in Washington but criticized Lee for voting against a bloated infrastructure bill, less than 10% of which was designated for anything plausibly called infrastructure. He said he’ll vote independently of both parties but criticized Lee for voting against both parties on some key bills. He preached the importance of honesty and working across the aisle, then lied about Senator Lee’s record of doing exactly that.
This is an age of censorship by consortium, in which government does some things it shouldn’t but outsources most of the dirty work to other institutions, such as Big Business, Big Ed, Big Media, and Big Tech. Dissent is suppressed and dissenters are punished to protect gullible Americans from misinformation and disinformation. In such a time, one thing McMullin said in the debate is particularly chilling: “We’ve got to protect voters’ access to truth.” If you heard “freedom of speech” in that sentence, you’re not keeping up with the times. For added effect, remember that McMullin worked for the CIA.
Here are some key reasons for my vote.
Lee is a legitimate constitutional scholar, one of only two I know in the Senate. Senator Ted Cruz is the other; he’s more articulate but perhaps less scholarly than Lee. We need them both. There are other senators who care about the US Constitution in a positive way. But many, including some Republicans, see our founding law as an unwelcome and outdated, if not simply irrelevant, obstacle to the quest for power and wealth.
I want a senator (Lee) who knows and has the courage to remind us that the power to declare war is vested by the Constitution in Congress, not the executive branch. I don’t want a senator (McMullin) who questions someone’s patriotism for saying that.
I want a senator (Lee) who will object and sometimes even obstruct, when massive bills are forced through Congress before any of my elected representatives can read them, let alone debate them conscientiously in public. That is legislation without representation. It is as tyrannical as taxation without representation, which incensed the American colonists in the 18th century. It deserves to be exposed and resisted.
I want a senator (Lee) who votes against measures which are outside the federal government’s legitimate authority, even when needs are real and goals are honorable. It is liberal and leftist sleight of hand to presume that everything that must be done by anyone must be done by government, and everything that should be done by government should be done at the national level.
I’d prefer to have two US Senators like this from my state, but for now I have to settle for one.
Senator Lee has worked with Democrats on substantive, bipartisan legislation which advanced the national interest. This bucks two trends on Capitol Hill. One is refusing to work with the other party on anything significant — both to avoid the opposition getting credit for anything good and to preserve the problems, which are of more lasting political use than solutions. The other is surrendering Republican interests to Democrats’ will, as often happens in “bipartisan” legislation. One of Lee’s top-shelf bipartisan accomplishments is much-needed sentencing reform. Another is Patriot Act reform, to restrict large-scale US government surveillance of Americans without warrants, among other abuses.
Lee’s opponents in the primary and general elections have campaigned on the need for such cooperation while carefully ignoring the fact that Senator Lee has done it more diligently and more effectively than most current senators. McMullin calls Lee “a partisan boot-licker,” though, if you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that few if any Republicans have vexed Republican leadership more than Mike Lee over the past dozen years.
To the extent that Evan McMullin has a voting record, having held no legislative office, it is his vote for Joe Biden for president in 2020. I think he owes us an apology for that. What we see in the country and the world now was quite predictable:
- persistent inflation, sent soaring by massive spending ostensibly to boost an economy which was already recovering rapidly from the pandemic;
- our vanishing southern border and our systematic enriching and empowering of the Mexican drug-and-human-trafficking cartels;
- surrendering the United States’ newly-won status as a net exporter of energy by intentionally impeding US energy production, including refining and financing;
- jeopardizing Europe’s stability and enhancing its energy dependence on Russia, by blocking a pipeline from Israel to Europe and allowing Russia to complete a natural gas pipeline the Trump administration blocked;
- the politicizing of many federal departments and agencies, notably including the Department of Justice, and their use against the administration’s political opponents;
- frustrating, even infuriating our best allies, while showing the world’s tyrants that the United States is weak, inept, and unreliable on the world stage — essentially, open invitations, delivered in Afghanistan, to Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine and to Chairman Xi to invade Taiwan; and
- negating basic parental rights and eviscerating hard-won women’s rights in service of a radical gender agenda.
If this broad and deep devastation at home and abroad isn’t what Mr. McMullin wanted and thought he was voting for, he needs to admit that he was fooled and try to tell us how, so we can start to believe that he won’t be so gullible again.
I suppose that sounds harsh. But if McMullin is half as smart as his advocates want us to believe, he could easily have foreseen what many of us foresaw. Biden has never been a uniter; earlier in his political career he presided over some of the most divisive episodes in our politics. He was never much of an intellect, even before his current limitations arose. And he has always been politically malleable, not anchored to any discernable fixed principles. Small wonder that his performance in the Oval Office is approximately what we’d get from an incompetent part-time ventriloquist dummy and a signature machine.
Joe Biden was Evan McMullin’s choice for president in 2020.
In McMullin’s talking points, the chief reason to vote for him and against Lee is the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, including the January 6 riot at the Capitol. McMullin’s narrative here is familiar and overworked. It bears little resemblance to the facts as we know them. (In this above all he sounds like a Democrat, not an independent.) There’s good reason for his emphasis: either you reject McMullin’s borrowed narrative or you cannot vote for Mike Lee.
I reject the narrative — but you saw that coming. I’ll say more of this in a later section, after we look at the congressional race on my ballot.
So these are the major reasons I’m voting for Mike Lee again — and never again for Evan McMullin. But I’m just one voter with one vote. If what you want is another Democrat in Washington — which a lot of Utah voters want — he’s a great choice. We already have one thinly-veiled Democrat in the US Senate from Utah, but I can understand people wanting two, and Evan McMullin will fit right in. Even if he doesn’t “caucus with the Democrats,” in the most consequential matters I expect him to be at least as reliable a Democratic vote as Senator Mitt Romney (R-Establishment).
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US House of Representatives, Utah District 3 – John Curtis, Glenn J. Wright, and more
Here’s the US House of Representatives portion of my ballot:
Here are the candidates’ official campaign websites:
- John Curtis (Republican) – https://johncurtis.org/
- Glenn J. Wright (Democrat) – https://wrightforutahcongressionaldistrict3.com/
- Daniel Clyde Cummings (Constitution Party) – https://cummings4congress.com/ (currently broken)
- Aaron Heineman (Independent American Party) – https://www.aaronforcongress.us/
- Michael Stoddard (Libertarian) – I haven’t found an official campaign sight. Maybe you’ll have better luck.
Curtis and Wright participated in a debate on October 6. This too is available on YouTube. (The link starts about 14 minutes in, when the debate actually begins.)
What follows is my opinion and analysis of the race, again with no pretense of neutrality.
My Vote for House
I’ll be voting for John Curtis. In most ways, for me he is the model legislator. People I know who have worked with him for years tell me he is a master facilitator — that is, he’s both very good at and committed to bringing people together to craft real solutions. I like his positions on many issues, and once or twice I’ve been part of his efforts to bring people together to discuss a complex issue so he can learn about it. Where he and I diverge, the variations are minor — and they probably make him more suitable to represent the large majority of people in his district who aren’t me.
If I’m ever a candidate participating in a debate — don’t hold your breath — I want to be like John Curtis. I have in mind his demeanor, his skills as an explainer, and his command of issues. The October 6 debate is worth watching on that basis alone.
The debate constitutes most of my experience with Glenn Wright, the Democratic candidate. He seems serious and credible as a local official in Summit County; I was less pleased with what he said in the congressional debate.
- He said, “I base my decisions on physics and economics.” I would like to see freedom on that list, along with a sense of history and an awareness of American constitutional principles. And did I mention math?
- He seemed quite attached to some of the more extreme Democratic talking points. He said there are “over 200 election deniers running for Congress.”
- He said some wildly unmathematical things about the federal budget.
- His thoughts on Ukraine and NATO struck me as simplistic.
- There was simply too much Democratic boilerplate, tempered (though unevenly) for a Utah audience. There were too many rote talking points and not enough analysis, reflection, and connection.
To get a sense of how the two candidates think and speak, I suggest watching about four and a half minutes of the debate, beginning at 32:57.
- Wright responds first to a question on gasoline prices: What can be done in Congress to help reduce gas prices? There’s a bit of meat on the bone here, but his big thing is to “electrify our transportation sector” — with no apparent sense of the challenges involved.
- Curtis nails his response. It’s textbook — and clearly delivered.
- In his rebuttal Wright falsely says we’ve done nothing to decrease oil production in the US. His explanation is off point.
- In his rebuttal, Curtis cites a key obstacle: banks refusing to lend to energy companies. He also notes that it’s hard to attract investors when lawmakers say we’re phasing out the entire industry.
Curtis is better at this than Mike Lee. He’s a lot better at it than Glenn Wright.
That said, if what you want is yet another Democrat in Washington, by all means vote for Glenn Wright. I’d like it if you’d first consult with Tulsi Gabbard, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate who lately left the party, about whether the Democratic Party is something you still want to support. (She’s a genuine liberal, not a conservative or a leftist.) If that really is what you want, by all means vote that way.
Otherwise, vote for John Curtis. He’s the best congressional candidate I’ve seen on my ballot in a long time.
Curtis will defeat Wright by a large margin. Lee will defeat McMullin by a smaller one.
More Thoughts About Mike Lee and Evan McMullin
I’d like to write a lot more than my time or my readers’ patience will allow about this race, the two major candidates, and the issues the race engages. Here’s a little more instead.
My Past with Mike Lee and Evan McMullin
In 2009 I heard Mike Lee speak, before he was a candidate for any office. That’s when I decided that I wanted to see him to run for office — ideally against incumbent Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz. (In DC, as someone once said, there are workhorses and there are show horses. I prefer the workhorses to represent me.)
In 2010, when I was still a Republican, I got myself elected as a delegate to the Utah State Republican Convention, mostly so I could vote for Mike Lee. I voted for him on every ballot. These included the early ballot which eliminated incumbent Senator Bob Bennett (whom I mostly liked, but who was AWOL as some key crises developed which pertained directly to a committee he chaired), and the final ballot where Lee got just enough votes — a hair over 40 percent — to force a primary against the Tea Party’s favorite, Tim Bridgewater. I carried as much water as I could for Lee in the primary, which he narrowly won. He won the general election that year by a larger margin.
It took freshman Senator Lee a while to get his bearings in on Capitol Hill, I think, but he’s been my favorite US Senator for years. I am delighted to have him on my ballot again.
(He still doesn’t fully have his bearings on the campaign trail. Opponents like to point to some silly things he said in 2020 in campaigning for President Trump. But no one who voted for Joe Biden has any standing to criticize other candidates who say silly — or incoherent or even creepy — things when the microphone is live.)
In 2016 I left the Republican Party for three reasons. Two were bad behavior by party leadership at the county and state levels, respectively. The third was that the party nominated Donald Trump for President. I explained all this at the time. I haven’t seen any compelling reason to rejoin the Republican Party since then.
When Election Day 2016 loomed, I couldn’t vote for Donald Trump, and I couldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton. After attending a long speech in Provo, Utah, by Evan McMullin, I voted for him as an alternative to not voting at all in the presidential election. He seemed considerably more intelligent and well-versed in government than Mr. Trump, and he had the twin advantages over Mrs. Clinton of not being a leftist and not being a key cog in the Clinton machine. As I noted above, I wrote of Evan McMullin here and here and here.
The Donald Trump in the Room
Once-and-please-God-not-future President Donald Trump looms large in Utah’s US Senate race, as he does in this midterm election generally. The transparently partisan January 6 committee has not entirely failed in its Soviet-style political mission.
Donald Trump was and is a deeply flawed individual, and he was far less of a president than we needed him to be. But I never joined the “Kill the Beast!” mob. I was never so convinced that he was a monster and never so desperate to prove it that I would embrace cynical distortions of his words or actions or believe the foul stories some invented to fill the gaps. This distinguishes me from Evan McMullin.
I stayed on McMullin’s mailing list for a long time after the 2016 election, though it took mere days to be disillusioned. He began to parrot the most speculative and unbelievable charges Big Media leveled at President Trump — without apparent doubt, restraint, or reflection.
I liked McMullin back then, and I hoped his rapid descent into Trump Derangement Syndrome was a temporary aberration. I hoped he would quickly emerge from it as the principled man he seemed to be before the election. As the truth began to ooze out from behind the narrative, as it usually does, and as one earthshaking national “news” story after another proved to be false, I hoped he would take a more judicious and reasoned stance. Instead, he doubled down. From this I concluded that he does not have the temperament to be trusted with political power.
What I’ve seen in recent months is consistent with what I saw then. He is not the man or the candidate I thought I saw just before the 2016 election. If he were to win a Senate seat, he’d be right at home inside the Beltway, and I don’t mean that as a compliment.
2020 Election Aftermath and January 6
A key reason some of my friends (among others) cite for despising Senator Lee and calling him all sorts of unsavory names involves the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, including the riot at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. (By the way, just as the vast majority of those who attended President Trump’s nearby rally that day refrained from criminal activity at the Capitol, so most of the Trump voters I know were grieved and angered by the riot.)
As regards Mike Lee’s purported guilt in those weeks, let me put it this way.
- If you still trust the people who told us for years (and haven’t fully stopped telling us) that Donald Trump was a Russian agent and colluded with Russia to throw the 2016 election, when they knew better (President Obama was briefed, while still in office, that this was a Clinton campaign ploy to distract from some of her problems);
- If you still believe Big Media and the US officials who insist that our southern border is secure, despite millions of illegal crossings since President Biden began to dismantle our immigration enforcement — including the officials who publicly accused mounted border patrol officers of whipping illegal immigrants, when they already knew the story was false;
- If you still trust the people who stood in front of rows of burning buildings and reported on “mostly peaceful protests”;
- If you still trust the people who claimed the US evacuation of Afghanistan went well, and that the Taliban of today are a lot more civilized than the Taliban of 20 years ago;
- If you still believe that China was not conducting US-funded gain-of-function research on coronaviruses in that lab in Wuhan (as Dr. Anthony Fauci testified under oath, but we now know this was perjury);
- If you still trust the voices who mocked (and still mock) ivermectin as a horse dewormer when it had been used successfully to treat millions of humans in recent years (there was even a Nobel Prize in Medicine for that), and in the face of a growing body of research which shows it has been about 80 percent effective in preventing death from COVID-19;
- If you still trust the voices — and the platforms — who, just before the 2020 election, denied and buried the New York Post story of Hunter Biden’s laptop and the evidence it contained of international corruption involving the Biden family, including its patriarch;
- If you still trust the party in Washington which holds supposedly investigative hearings without permitting any dissenting witnesses to be called, and without allowing their own witnesses to be cross-examined;
- If you still trust people who use the Trump-is-a-monster defense to excuse their serial lies under oath, their lies to the American public, and their assumption of powers to which they are not entitled by law;
- If you still trust the people who told us there wouldn’t be any inflation, and later told us there wasn’t any; who then told us it was only minor and limited to a few discrete sectors of the economy, then told us it was real but transitory, then told us it was the Vladimir Putin’s and the oil companies’ faults, then tried to blame it on Republicans (who do bear some of the blame, but not most of it);
- If you still take seriously the people who insist that it is destroying our democracy to let the people vote on key issues, to let state legislatures and Congress make laws on key issues rather than letting unelected judges decide, and to take ordinary and popular measures to insure that only legal voters vote in our elections;
- If you still trust the people who said that changes to Georgia voting laws were Jim Crow 2.0, despite the fact that the revised laws were less strict than those in President Biden’s home state, Delaware, and despite higher voter turnout than ever this year, and not just among white, male Republicans (bear in mind that Jim Crow 1.0 was Southern Democrats’ way of keeping black Republicans out of office);
- If you agree with Big Media, Big Government, and the other Bigs that bureaucrats, not parents, should have primary control over their children’s education and health care …
… then you should by all means cling to the same people’s narrative that January 6 was a full-blown attempted coup — “a violent insurrection with the intention of overturning the American republic,” as McMullin said in the debate. Perhaps you should also trust McMullin’s charge that Senator Lee was “at the center of the plot to overturn the American republic.” (He said that in the debate.)
If this is you, you should definitely vote for Evan McMullin. You’ll probably like him.
For my part, I am untroubled by Mike Lee’s activities in investigating reports of possible state actions in the aftermath of a suspect election, and in exploring possible legal remedies to election irregularities which were widely believed to have existed. Apart from Mike Lee, there is scarcely anyone in government whom I would trust in the matter of exploring what redress the US Constitution and other law might allow to people of good faith, when there are concerns about election results. He is a rare public figure who cares more what the Constitution actually says that what he wants it to say at the moment.
Senator Lee’s official action in this matter is in the public record: when he had a chance to vote on the matter, he voted to accept the Electoral College’s vote making Joe Biden the President of the United States. He has rightly explained that President Biden is the duly elected President, by virtue of the only vote that matters, the vote by the Electoral College.
I recall that Lee also circulated a letter to Republican senators who planned to object to certifying electoral votes from some states. He said there is no constitutional or other legal authority to do so. One published report at the time said Senator Lee “appears to be among the president’s most vocal opponents” in that matter. Evan McMullin’s account conveniently differs from the record.
Granted, this issue is larger than January 6; it touches election integrity generally, in a context where many states dismantled or simply didn’t practice legal and procedural safeguards to insure election integrity, and many of the people involved in the election testified under oath of irregularities. But that is a longer discussion for another day. (Meanwhile, you could do worse than reading Heather MacDonald’s Rigged.)
That’s all for now. I hope some of it has been useful to you somehow. Please do your best to vote from knowledge and sober reflection, not fear. If we all do that, we’re likely to be okay.
Thanks for reading!
Comments are always welcome, within the bounds of common civility and relevance.
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