Like Sen. Mitt Romney did on Saturday, Utah GOP Rep. John Curtis on Monday publicly recognized Democrat Joe Biden as the new president-elect — something that other Republicans in the Utah congressional delegation are hesitant to do.
“Until a judicial decision determines wrongdoing, Joe Biden should be acknowledged as the president-elect,” Curtis said in a news release Monday. He adds, however, that President Donald Trump should also be given every legal opportunity to make his case in contested states.
“Given the opportunity to address Joe Biden, I would tell him that I will take him at his word that he will be a unifier and a president to all, including those of us that did not vote for him. I stand ready to help,” Curtis said.
“To Kamala Harris, I would say that I do not need to agree with her politics to acknowledge the historic nature of her election — congratulations,” he added. “To Donald Trump, I would say thanks for an amazing list of accomplishments over the past four years — too long to list.”
Meanwhile, Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee and retiring Rep. Rob Bishop declined to recognize Biden president-elect for now.
Lee issued a statement saying, “Both candidates have every right to exhaust every legal remedy at their disposal under the law” and to “take steps to ensure that all that all votes have been counted properly and lawfully. I look forward to working with whichever candidate emerges as the winner at the end of this process.”
Meanwhile, retiring GOP Rep. Rob Bishop said in an interview Monday that it’s not really his role to say whether the presidential election is decided and Democrat Joe Biden is indeed president-elect — so he isn’t saying.
“For me to pontificate on that is meaningless,” he said. “I could, but for what purpose …? Whether I speak out or not, that doesn’t make a difference. I should be doing things that make a difference.”
Bishop, a former history teacher who has seen many transitions of power during his 18 years in Congress, said a point always arrives when an election clearly is final and it’s time to move on. But he said the losing candidate usually is the one to figure out when that is, and to speak up appropriately.
“There is a point where it’s time to move on and let the country organize and hopefully heal,” he said. “But whether or not I make that statement is superficial and irrelevant to anything,” adding he doesn’t know enough about possible irregularities in specific state elections to make a declaration.
But the Utah Republican, who is being replaced by Rep.-elect Blake Moore, said he wants to speak out about one angle of the election.
“This was basically a status quo election,” with America almost evenly divided, he said. “There is a lot of division in the country. If anyone thinks they have a mandate to do something, I think they’re sorely missing what took place here.”
Bishop adds, “This is a time where people have to realize that they don’t go back there thinking they have a mandate to make a specific change. You go back there to see if you can come up with a compromise to do the best thing for people.”
Similarly, Curtis said, “This election has shown that our nation is truly divided — nearly in half. Political rhetoric and attacks have seeped out of Washington, D.C., and into our neighborhoods, friendships, and even our families. Now is not the time to be sore winners and losers — now is the time to heal the wounds and come together as one United States. I believe no one can do this better than Utah.”
Romney — the 2012 Republican presidential nominee — was quick to congratulate Biden on Saturday when the election was called by major news organizations, while most Republicans in Congress were silent.
“It’s time we get behind the new president and wish him the very best,” Romney said as he made the rounds on weekend TV network news shows.
He also criticized President Donald Trump, saying, “When you say the election was corrupt or stolen or rigged, that’s the language that gets picked up by authoritarians around the world,” and also erodes confidence in elections at home.
Romney also said that Trump “has a relatively relaxed relationship with the truth,” so, “don’t expect him to go quietly in the night. That’s not how he operates.”
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, has not commented publicly on the question of whether he recognizes Biden as president-elect.
Rep. Ben McAdams, the only Democrat in Utah’s congressional delegation, who is locked in a tight reelection race with Burgess Owens, also has congratulated Biden as president-elect.
“I congratulate President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris on their historic success,” McAdams tweeted. “Now is the time to put people before party and come together to work in a bipartisan manner on issues that are important to Utah’s hard-working families.”