Celeste Maloy challenged by GOP opponent to 13 primary debates — just as she dared Republicans last year

“I think my opponent said it best last year when she issued this exact challenge,” said Colby Jenkins, who won GOP delegates nomination for Utah’s 2nd Congressional Distict last month.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Congressional candidate Colby Jenkins at the Utah Republican Nominating Convention in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 27, 2024. Jenkins has challenged Rep. Celeste Maloy to 13 debates ahead of Utah's 2nd Congressional District GOP primary election.

As Rep. Celeste Maloy asked of her competition while running in last year’s 2nd Congressional District special election, her new Republican challenger Colby Jenkins is asking the congresswoman to face him in 13 primary election debates — one for each county in the district.

In a news release, Jenkins said Maloy should have “no problem” agreeing to the debates.

“I think my opponent said it best last year when she issued this exact challenge – Republicans deserve a robust debate on policies that directly impact their lives and the direction of our country,” he said in a statement. “I urge her to accept my invitation to show up and give voters in the 2nd District a better understanding of our positions on the key issues facing this district and our country.”

Jenkins’ challenge echoes Maloy’s call for 13 debates with her opponents Becky Edwards and Bruce Hough in last year’s special election.

“With the primary ballot set, we welcome our signature-gathering opponents to the race and invite them to debate the issues in all 13 counties within CD-2,” she posted on social media on July 13, 2023.

“Republicans deserve a robust debate on the policies that directly impact their lives and the direction of our country, and I am eager to share my positions and show how I plan to fight for the conservative values of the people I am running to represent,” Maloy added in a statement.

Ten out of the 13 debates Maloy called for took place before last year’s Sept. 5 primary. Edwards declined to participate in the 10 debates put on by Maloy’s campaign, only attending the two put on by the Utah Republican Party.

This year’s June 25 primary election is a month away and Congress is in session for nine of those business days. The Utah Debate Commission is hosting one primary debate for Utah’s 2nd District, which will air on multiple TV and radio stations on June 10 at 10 a.m.

Only days ahead of this year’s GOP state nomination convention, Sen. Mike Lee endorsed Jenkins. But at the convention, Maloy’s speech to delegates and endorsement by U.S. House colleague Rep Burgess Owens left her finishing behind Jenkins, 43%-57%, and sent both to the primary.

Maloy, a former staffer for her predecessor Chris Stewart, beat Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Riebe in last year’s special general election and has held the seat for just under six months.

Meanwhile, Utah Democrats have yet to pick a nominee for the race after the party’s sole candidate came under fire for claiming Jan. 6 rioters were “politically persecuted” and criticizing President Joe Biden’s immigration policies as facilitating an invasion at the southern border.

That candidate, Brian Adams, was officially nominated for the seat during April’s convention on the condition that he later withdraw for another candidate to take his place. Utah’s Democratic Party will hold a special nominating convention on Saturday to replace Adams. This month eight people have paid the $485 party filing fee to compete for the nomination, according to the party’s website.

Clarification, May 23, 2:40 p.m • The story has been updated to clarify that Maloy finished behind Jenkins at the convention.

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