Celeste Maloy, just sworn in as Utah’s newest member of Congress, already has a Republican challenger

St. George military veteran Colby Jenkins filed to challenge Maloy for the GOP nomination in October.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Celeste Maloy speaks to supporters after winning the special election to represent Utah's 2nd Congressional District, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023.

Republican Celeste Maloy was officially sworn in as the 435th member of Congress on Tuesday night. It’s been just one week since the former congressional staffer won the special election in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, but she’s already drawn a challenger for the Republican nomination next year.

Maloy was the surprise winner in the race to fill an unexpected vacancy in Utah’s delegation in the U.S. House following the retirement of Chris Stewart, who announced his planned departure in May and ultimately stepped down in September.

The former staffer in Stewart’s office and first-time candidate defeated nearly a dozen other Republicans to capture the GOP nomination. She defeated Democrat Kathleen Riebe and a handful of third-party candidates last week.

Maloy was dogged by several controversies during her campaign. She faced questions about whether she was eligible to run as a Republican because she was an inactive voter when she filed as a candidate to replace Stewart. She updated her registration status after she was notified about the deficiency by Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson’s office the day after the candidate filing period closed.

Maloy won’t have much time to get acclimated to her new job because she must start defending her seat immediately. The official candidate filing period to appear on Utah ballots in November 2024 opens Jan. 2, but one Republican rival is already laying the groundwork to challenge her next year.

Republican Colby Jenkins filed papers with the Federal Election Commission in October ahead of a potential challenge to Maloy. A former special forces officer and combat veteran in the U.S. Army, Jenkins currently works for a high-tech communications company.

Jenkins calls his fledgling campaign an “exploratory committee,” but that’s a misnomer. Filing with the FEC allows him to raise and spend money like an official candidate without the financial restrictions on those who have not officially jumped into the race. Former House Speaker Brad Wilson used the same strategy when he launched his U.S. Senate campaign — claiming he had not yet decided to run while raising funds far beyond the limits on undeclared candidates.

Jenkins already has one advantage over Maloy. He cast a ballot in the 2020 and 2022 elections, while Maloy did not.

Maloy will only be in office for a little over a month when candidates can start filing to run against her in 2024. Shortly after being declared the winner in last week’s special election, Maloy said she was unsurprised that candidates were lining up to challenge her.

“It’s politics. I knew there’d be somebody,” Maloy said. “I’m just going to keep working.”