Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem are coming to Salt Lake City to raise money for Sen. Mike Lee’s reelection campaign.
Lee’s campaign attempted to keep the high-profile guest list under wraps but confirmed Paul and Noem would visit this week on behalf of Lee. The event is from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in Salt Lake City on Friday.
A campaign source says the fundraising event has been in the works for quite some time, and several more fundraisers with prominent Republicans are scheduled in the coming months.
Paul has gained notoriety in recent months for tangling with Dr. Anthony Fauci over the response to the COVID pandemic. Paul has promised to investigate Fauci if Republicans win control of Congress following November’s election.
Noem drew criticism for her handling of the pandemic. South Dakota had one of the worst rates of COVID infection in the nation, despite being a mostly rural state.
Several roadblocks are standing in the way of Lee and a third term in Congress, which is likely why he is ramping up his fundraising.
He has drawn two challengers for the Republican nomination this year. Former Utah state Rep. Becky Edwards and communications professional Ally Isom are gathering signatures to secure a spot on the primary ballot. Edwards is critical of Lee for being too inflexible and unwilling to compromise. Isom has promised to limit her stay in Congress to two terms.
Lee also is gathering signatures but is expected to win the nod of Utah Republican delegates at the state convention in April.
Lee appears well-positioned to win a potential primary matchup with Edwards and Isom. A recent survey of registered Utah Republican voters shows 51% support for Lee to Edwards’s 5% and Isom’s 2%. 37% of that group are undecided.
If Lee wins or avoids a primary altogether, he likely will face independent candidate Evan McMullin in November’s election. Some Democrats, led by former Congressman Ben McAdams, are attempting to “clear the field” for McMullin by having the party not nominate anyone to face Lee. However, Cael Weston has filed to run as a Democrat in the race.
The OH Predictive Insights survey found 57% of Utahns believe Lee will win the November election, while just 7% believe McMullin will be the victor.
Lee has a massive lead in fundraising right now with more than $2 million in the bank, but McMullin outraised Lee nearly 2-1 in the last three months of 2021.
Both McMullin and Lee are already spending some of those campaign dollars on television advertising. McMullin launched a television ad this week, hitting Lee for opposing sanctions on Vladimir Putin in 2017 and traveling to Moscow to meet with Putin in 2019.
Lee’s campaign says they are set to launch an ad campaign this week focused on the upcoming Republican caucus meetings.