Republican Sen. Mike Lee won the Utah State Senator race on Nov. 8 with a 54.7% vote. He took the seat in 2012 for the first time and vowed to only serve two terms. His recent win marks his third term representing Utah voices in the U.S. Senate. Lee’s broken promise, as well as his association with former President Donald Trump and the Tea Party leaves many Utahns wondering how they will be represented in the senate for the next six years.
“I think you’ll get the same old Mike Lee, doing Mike Lee things,” said James Curry, associate professor of political science at the University of Utah, “with potentially the exception of maybe he responds to having been hit hard on the campaign trail on Trump and election fraud … to try to, probably in his hopes, do even better in the next election.”
Lee rose to prominence in 2010 due to his association with the Tea Party, a movement which takes ideas from Libertarian, right-wing populist and conservative movements. Established in 2009, the Tea Party calls for lower taxes, decreased federal debt and significant reduction of the U.S. government. Tea Party supporters opposed progressive ideas such as universal healthcare. The party mostly disappeared by 2016, according to an article by Politico. Even though the party was declared dead, Lee’s association with extreme conservatism lives on.
Lee has a long association with former President Donald Trump, and this connection is evidenced by Trump’s Nov. 2 endorsement in an ad paid for by Club for Growth Action.
“The Great People of Utah have a gem in Mike Lee,” Trump said. “He will never let you down, whereas his opponent, McMuffin, will only let you down. Mike has long had my Complete and Total Endorsement, and even more strongly now!”
Text messages from Lee to R-Sen. and then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows were discovered by the House panel which was investigating the White House Insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. Lee’s text messages detailed support for Sidney Powell, a Republican lawyer who spread wild claims of a rigged 2020 election.
Evan McMullin, Lee’s main competitor who ran independently, used Lee’s association with Donald Trump and the insurrection as an attack on Lee’s campaign. In response, Lee attempted to distance himself from Trump.
“I stood against my party time and time again to oppose reckless spending. I will do it again and again and again. We need people who say no,” Lee said. “To suggest that I’m beholden to either party, that I’ve been a bootlicker for either party is folly. And it’s contradicted by the plain facts.”
According to some of Lee’s supporters, senators must cross party lines to do what needs to be done in the everyday duties of a U.S. Senator.
“A lot of the work of Congress is mundane and detail-oriented, and Utah needs our delegation to care about those issues and to show leadership,” said Ben McAdams, a former Democratic congressman from Utah and one of Lee’s most prominent supporters. “Utah needs leaders who can roll up their sleeves and get the job done.”
“What I think is important about Sen. Lee is he’s been there,” said former Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a supporter of Lee. “This is not his first rodeo, and he has position.”
While his conservative supporters remain hopeful that he will be a voice for everyone regardless of their political standing, we have Lee’s past 12 years of actions as an indication of what the next six years will look like for Utahns.