Republican Becky Edwards challenges Mike Lee for US Senate
Utah’s election season is upon us. Political party caucuses are in March and party conventions in April. Two-term Republican Senator Mike Lee is running for a third term but not without challenges from his party.
Republican Becky Edwards is challenging US Senator Mike Lee in this year's federal election. She believes people want their elected leaders to find common ground and work with civility. Edwards has been a state representative for ten years, and says she has a track record of bipartisanship on key issues.
“For people across the state and specifically in my district, things like clean air, affordable housing, education, health care, climate, these are things that that I'd lead out on and sponsor legislation and really made a difference."
She said important Utah issues are not being addressed in Washington, DC by Senator Lee. Her decision to launch a primary challenge against him comes from concerns about the future of democracy.
"People are really deeply concerned about the structure of our political voice right now. They're deeply concerned that young people are feeling so disengaged about the future."
Caucuses are in March, where delegates are elected to represent voting districts in the state primary. Only registered Republicans can vote in party caucuses and primaries. Since Republicans out-number Democrats in Utah by almost four-to-one, whoever wins the Republican primary tends to win the statewide election. So, in past elections, some unaffiliated voters, Independents, and Democrats changed their affiliation to Republican just so they could vote in the party’s primary election in June.
Wasatch County Democratic Party House District Chair Terry Goodall said she would never tell someone to interfere in another party's primary election.
"People make their own decisions. And people are frustrated. They feel like their voices are not heard in Utah. When you can't elect people to our house and senate in Utah because they've been gerrymandered out of seats."
Summit County Republican Party Acting Chair Karen Ballash said they're expecting a lot of voter crossovers during this election.
"Of course, we would prefer that we get real Republicans to sign up and register, but we feel this year we're going to have lot of independents who are headed our direction. You know we welcome the opportunity to change people's minds."
Voters registered in Summit County are 25% Democrat, 36% Republican, 32% unaffiliated, and 4% independent. The Democratic Party is open, which means anyone can vote in the primary or attend the party caucus. Summit County Clerk Evalyn Furse said people could change their party affiliation as often as they want.
“The easiest way to do that is to go to vote.utah.gov. And there's a link there to register to vote or update registration, and that allows you to affiliate or change affiliations. If you want to participate in the Republican caucus or the primary, then you need to be registered as a Republican before that."
March 31 is the last day a registered voter may change their voter affiliation before the regular primary election on June 28.
KPCW contacted Mike Lee's office for comment and did not receive a response in time for this report.
The full interview with Republican US Senate Candidate Becky Edwards is on KPCW.org.