Sen. Lee weighs into another Utah congressional race (2024)

Sen. Mike Lee endorsed state Sen. Mike Kennedy, R-Alpine, for Utah’s open 3rd Congressional District seat on Monday.

The endorsem*nt marks only the second time Lee has weighed in on a Beehive State congressional primary. Lee broke his longstanding policy of remaining neutral in colleagues’ races with his surprise backing of 2nd District challenger Colby Jenkins who is running to unseat Rep. Celeste Maloy.

Lee’s stamp of approval for Kennedy could have an outsized impact in the crowded five-man race to replace Rep. John Curtis, who is currently running to be Lee’s junior senator. Kennedy, the state GOP convention winner, will face off against Roosevelt Mayor JR Bird, former Sky Zone CEO Case Lawrence, State Auditor John Dougall and commercial litigator Stewart Peay in the June 25 primary election.

“Mike Kennedy is someone I know and trust to do what’s right for the future of Utah and America,” Lee said in a statement shared with the Deseret News. “He’s a staunch defender of our Constitution, limited government, and Utah values. He’s a thoughtful and courageous leader who brings unique skills as a doctor, attorney, business owner, and proven, conservative legislator.”

The statement continued: “He knows how to work with others to move policy forward and deliver results. Mike has my full support and endorsem*nt, and I’m confident he will be a leader who makes Washington work better for our families.”

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Following Lee’s 2nd District intervention in favor of Jenkins, Lee told the Deseret News to not “expect this one to be the last” endorsem*nt he makes in a Utah federal race. The senator said he is taking an explicit turn in his tactics to change the composition of the U.S. House and Senate to better reflect his brand of conservatism.

“We don’t really have time anymore for the normal politics,” Lee told the Deseret News at the time. “Action is needed now and that’s why I’ve become so vocal on this. We need people who are willing to play aggressively, we need people who are willing to say ‘No’ to their own party’s leadership.”

Since his endorsem*nt, Lee has gone all in for Jenkins, securing endorsem*nts, sending out fundraising messages and stumping for him at multiple campaign events on his weekends home from Washington, D.C. Lee’s nod could open up similar doors for Kennedy in the 3rd District.

“I’m honored to be endorsed by Sen. Mike Lee and so many great people across our district. Our campaign is about solving problems, and that’s exactly what I’ll do in Washington,” Kennedy said in a statement to the Deseret News. “By restoring civility and focusing on solutions, we can heal a broken Washington and make Utah and our country stronger than ever before.”

Who is Mike Kennedy in Utah’s 3rd district race?

Kennedy is the only candidate on the 3rd District primary ballot that did not attempt to qualify via signature gathering. He advanced to the primary after winning delegates’ support at the state GOP nominating convention on April 27 with 61.5% in the final round of voting.

Before the convention, Kennedy had raised more money than any of his competition, with over $341,000 in total contributions — not including a $156,000 loan he gave his campaign. But some of his opponents have invested much more of their personal wealth into the race, with Lawrence and Bird each loaning their campaigns more than $1 million.

Kennedy was first elected to the state legislature as a House representative in 2012. He left to run for U.S. Senate against Mitt Romney, where he won at the GOP nominating convention, 51-49%, before losing in the primary, 73-27%.

Kennedy returned to the state legislature in 2020 by winning a special election for Utah Senate district 21, where he represents roughly 20% of the 3rd District’s population in northern Utah County, Kennedy said.

During his time in the legislature, Kennedy has spearheaded the passage of bills prohibiting employers from requiring COVID-19 vaccines, aligning public education with “principles of individual freedom” and banning transgender surgeries for Utah children, for which his home was vandalized.

Kennedy said his priorities in the U.S. House would be to eliminate wasteful elements of government health care programs and increase security at the southern border. On foreign policy, Kennedy is supportive of selling military resources to Ukraine or forcing Russia to pay for it by seizing their assets.

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Kennedy’s opponents have criticized him for votes he made while in the legislature that they say made Utah a more welcoming place for migrants who enter the country illegally. One bill increased the threshold at which employees must verify the documentation status of employees through E-verify from 15 to 150 employees.

In an editorial board meeting with the Deseret News, Kennedy said the solution to the country’s problems begins with electing “a coalition of people that are willing to actually make a difference and not be grandstanding and fundraising and disagreeable about the approach they’re going to take.”

Kennedy has also received the endorsem*nt of state legislative leadership, including Utah House Speaker Mike Schultz and Senate President Stuart Adams.

Sen. Lee weighs into another Utah congressional race (2024)
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