September’s Republican primary to pick a nominee to replace Rep. Chris Stewart in Congress will be a three-way affair. The Utah elections office announced Wednesday that businessman Bruce Hough had submitted enough signatures to qualify for the primary election. He joins Celeste Maloy and Becky Edwards on the special primary election ballot
“It was never in doubt that we were going to make the ballot,” Russ Walker, Hough’s campaign manager, said in a text message to the Tribune.
Hough has strong ties to national Republicans, having been one of three representatives from Utah on the Republican National Committee. He resigned from that post to run for the open congressional seat.
Maloy, a former staffer for Chris Stewart, advanced to the primary election after winning the GOP delegate vote over Hough, Edwards and several other candidates. Shortly after that victory, it was learned Maloy was not a registered voter in Utah when she filed for office because she relocated to Virginia in 2019 and did not cast a ballot in the 2020 and 2022 elections. Maloy re-registered after the filing deadline had passed, raising questions about her eligibility to run for the Republican nomination.
The controversy over Maloy’s status has led to a rift between Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson and legislative leaders. Henderson, the state’s top election official, said Maloy met all of the constitutional requirements to run, while lawmakers said the lieutenant governor did not follow state law, which bars someone from running for the nomination of a political party of which they aren’t a member.
Edwards, who qualified for the special primary election via signature gathering last week, is the only one of the trio who has previously appeared on a ballot. She was elected to five terms in the Utah House of Representatives from 2009 to 2019. She lost the three-way GOP U.S. Senate primary to Mike Lee in 2022.
Hough’s campaign appears ready to make an issue out of Maloy not voting for two elections and Edwards’ vote for Democrat Joe Biden over Republican Donald Trump in 2020.
“People want choice, they want an authentic conservative. A Republican that actually votes for a Republican President instead of voting for Democrats or not voting at all,” Walker said.
Republican congressional primary elections with three or more candidates on the ballot have become the norm in recent years. Most of the winners of those primaries triumphed with a plurality of support from voters instead of winning a majority.
Three candidates were in the 2017 GOP special congressional primary to replace former Rep. Jason Chaffetz in the 3rd District. John Curtis won that race with 43% of the vote.
In 2020, Blake Moore won the nomination in the 1st District over three other Republicans with just 31% support. Burgess Owens won the 4th District primary over a trio of Republicans, grabbing 43.5%.
The winner of the Sept. 5 primary will face Democrat Kathleen Riebe, a state senator, in November’s special general election.