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Stewart win gives Utah's 2nd District seat a new voice

Published November 7, 2012 1:09 am

GOP newcomer vows to cut federal spending and partially privatize Social Security.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Republican Chris Stewart rolled past Democrat Jay Seegmiller on Tuesday en route to becoming the new congressman for Utah's 2nd District.

The GOP candidate — who carried more than 60 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns — will replace U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, who eked out a win against Republican Mia Love in the newly created 4th District.

"It's been a long night and a bit bittersweet for us," Stewart said, referring to Mitt Romney's loss to President Barack Obama.

Stewart, an author and former U.S. Air Force pilot, ran on a platform of reducing the federal deficit through tax reforms and allowing people under age 50 to put a portion of their Social Security deductions into private savings accounts.

He also vowed to slash spending on entitlement programs and repeatedly promised to try and repeal the Affordable Care Act.

But the 52-year-old from Farmington also came under fire from the Seegmiller campaign for owning and operating a firm that collected more than $6.5 million in government contracts and took $35,000 in federal stimulus money.

Stewart's firm, The Shipley Group, is a consulting business that contracted with a variety of federal entities, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture.

Stewart defended the contracts, saying his firm was helping the government run more efficiently.

Seegmiller, an Amtrak conductor and former state legislator, spent much of his campaign touting a jobs plan that largely focused on offering tax breaks to corporations for bringing money housed overseas back to the United States to create employment opportunities. He said offering corporations a chance to bring back the money could create 2 million jobs.

"We had a rough time getting our message out," Seegmiller said. "I think it was hard for voters to learn about the candidates."

Stewart said he planned to work with Democrats to reduce the deficit — one of his top priorities.

The Republican made some waves in that direction when he refused to sign anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist's no-tax pledge, which would make him the only Republican in Congress from Utah to not sign it. Stewart said such a vow took away tools from Congress to help alleviate budget shortfalls.

Both candidates struggled to raise money, but Stewart easily outpaced Seegmiller in fundraising. According to the latest Federal Election Commission filings, Stewart collected $390,685 to Seegmiller's $98,263.

Stewart's path to the GOP nomination got off to a rocky start when he emerged from the state party convention after a controversial speech by candidate Milton Hanks, who charged four other candidates were in collusion to keep Stewart from winning.

The four candidates filed an FEC complaint against Stewart.

dmontero@sltrib.com