Utah, Rhode Island Voters Select Nominees for Congressional Contests

Samantha Flom
By Samantha Flom
September 6, 2023Congress
Utah, Rhode Island Voters Select Nominees for Congressional Contests
Bruce Hough and Celeste Maloy shake hands before the start of a 2nd Congressional District Republican primary debate for outgoing Rep. Chris Stewart's seat, in Farmington, Utah, on Aug. 4, 2023. (Rick Bowmer/AP Photo)

Special elections held Tuesday in Rhode Island and Utah narrowed the field of candidates for two hotly contested races for U.S. Congress.

In Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, the race was too early to call for who would fill the seat of long-time Republican Rep. Chris Stewart.

Mr. Stewart, who entered his sixth term in January, announced in May that he would be stepping down on Sept. 15 to care for his ailing wife.

Utah’s GOP special primary saw Celeste Maloy, who was Mr. Stewart’s chief legal counsel and has his endorsement, with a narrow lead over former state lawmaker Becky Edwards as of late Tuesday.

Ms. Edwards, a critic of former President Donald Trump, was leading in two urban counties, but Ms. Maloy, a Trump supporter, overtook her with strength from rural areas that make up the rest of the sprawling district that stretches from the northern part of the Salt Lake City area to cover much of southern and western Utah.

Votes yet to be counted include thousands of mail-in ballots arriving over the next two weeks.

The winner will go on to face Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Riebe in Utah’s Nov. 21 special general election—a matchup that favors the Republican given the district’s status as a GOP stronghold.

Meanwhile, in Rhode Island’s heavily Democratic 1st Congressional District, former White House aide Gabe Amo emerged victorious from a crowded field of nearly a dozen Democrats hoping to claim former Democratic Rep. David Cicilline’s vacant seat.

After serving more than 12 years in Congress, Mr. Cicilline stepped down in June to become the president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation.

In Tuesday’s primary, Mr. Amo raked in 32 percent of the vote as of 9 p.m. ET.

In November, he will aim to defeat U.S. Marine Corps veteran Gerry Leonard, the Republican political newcomer who bested second-place candidate, former Middletown Town Councilor Terri Flynn, in the GOP primary by winning 75.8 percent of the vote.

Rhode Island Rivals

Heading into Tuesday’s election, the presumed Democratic frontrunners for Rhode Island’s empty congressional seat were Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, former state Rep. Aaron Regunberg, state Sen. Sandra Cano, and Mr. Amo.

Ms. Matos, who was born in the Dominican Republic, received backlash when she was accused of filling out her nomination papers with the names of dead people and forging others’ names.

While noting that many of the signatures had proven invalid, the Rhode Island Board of Elections said it found “no obvious pattern of fraud” in its review.

If elected, Ms. Matos said she would vote to ban assault weapons and support pro-abortion legislation while aiming to make Rhode Island a leader in offshore wind energy.

Meanwhile, Mr. Regunberg sought to position himself as the most progressive candidate, securing the support of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and actress Jane Fonda. He focused his platform on combating big business and the country’s “cost of living crisis.”

Ms. Cano, a Colombian immigrant, said she favored a “wealth tax” and raising the minimum wage to $15, with future increases tied to the rate of inflation.

And Mr. Amo, the son of Ghanaian and Liberian immigrants, said he would work to codify Roe v. Wade, ban assault weapons, protect Social Security and Medicare from spending cuts, and combat climate change. His bid was backed by former Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who represented the district from 1995 to 2011.

The Republican field was comparatively sparse with just two candidates in the race.

Ms. Flynn focused her platform on lowering the cost of living, boosting energy independence, and supporting domestic energy production.

Meanwhile, Mr. Leonard criticized President Joe Biden’s economic policies. He said he preferred limited government and supported the United States’ assistance of Ukraine in its war with Russia, though he added that clearly defined goals and an exit strategy were necessary.

Rhode Island will select its next U.S. representative on Nov. 7.

Utah May Offer Hints at Level of Trump Support

The ultimate results for Utah’s special congressional primary race may serve as a litmus test for President Trump’s favorability among GOP voters as he seeks to secure the GOP presidential nomination.

The primary race pitted three Republican candidates with varying perspectives on the 45th president against one another.

Ms. Edwards has been an outspoken critic of President Trump. During her unsuccessful 2022 bid to unseat Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), she criticized Mr. Lee for supporting the former president’s efforts to challenge the 2020 election results. She also has admitted to voting for President Biden in 2020.

On the other end of the spectrum was Trump loyalist Bruce Hough, the former chair of the Utah Republican Party and father of siblings Julianne and Derek Hough of “Dancing With the Stars.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Maloy chose not to vote at all in either the 2016 or 2020 presidential contests.

Highlighting this difference during a televised debate last month, Mr. Hough noted that he was the only candidate to have supported President Trump in both races.

But when asked for her position on the indictments the former president is facing, Ms. Maloy said they appeared to be politically motivated and stressed the need for a fair trial.

Ms. Edwards skipped that debate, as well as the nine that preceded it.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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