Utah GOP congressional candidate won’t say if he’d certify a Biden presidential win

Six months into her tenure, incumbent Rep. Celeste Maloy will face Colby Jenkins in the 2024 Republican primary election for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District on June 25.

(Scott G Winterton | Pool) Utah’s 2nd Congressional District debate between Colby Jenkins, left, and Rep. Celeste Maloy at the KUED studios at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Monday, June 10, 2024.

Most of the barbs exchanged between two candidates competing for the Republican nomination to represent Utah’s 2nd Congressional District during a Monday debate were made under the assumption that the Grand Old Party will take back the White House. But only one said they would certify the results if November’s election night ends differently.

When asked whether he would honor the results if Democratic President Joe Biden wins reelection over former President Donald Trump, Colby Jenkins avoided answering one way or the other.

“I want to make sure that our election is as clear and transparent as possible,” Jenkins said. “The frustrations that we had in the previous election are certainly concerning. We need to make sure that those are corrected. So I will execute my congressional duties to the best of my ability to make sure that we do have a clean and certifiable election.”

Incumbent Rep. Celeste Maloy, who has occupied the seat for six months, stepped into the position after working as legal counsel for her predecessor, Chris Stewart. Maloy has repeatedly refused to answer questions about how she advised to Stewart to vote on 2020 presidential election certification. He joined 4th Congressional District Rep. Burgess Owens in voting not to certify the results.

“States certify their own elections,” Maloy said Monday, affirming that she would not challenge election results. “I don’t think it’s the job of Congress to overturn what a state says their vote totals are.”

[READ: Here’s Celeste Maloy and Utah GOP primary challenger Colby Jenkins views on wars in Ukraine and Israel]

That stance echoes statements she made in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune during last year’s special election. When asked who won in 2020, she answered, “Joe Biden.”

But the congresswoman still supports the ex-president in his bid to reclaim the Oval Office, saying she will vote for him in the general election.

Trump has not endorsed a candidate in the race. Maloy boasted support from other Trump allies Monday, including his former national security adviser Robert O’Brien and Trump-appointed former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

In his answer to nearly every question, Jenkins leveled criticisms at Maloy for — in his eyes — not adequately supporting and aligning herself with Trump, as well as for negotiating with Democrats while working to pass a federal budget. Over the course of the nearly hourlong debate, Jenkins mentioned Trump’s name over two dozen times.

“Who will stand with him when he takes office and looks to the legislators around him and asks, ‘Who’s with me? Who has been with me?’” Jenkins said, continuing, “As a legislator, it’s my opportunity to remove legislative obstacles to make sure that the new Trump administration can be successful. An example of where it’s not successful is when we have Republicans like my opponent who continue to vote for omnibus out of control spending.”

Because of Maloy’s vote for a fiscal 2024 appropriations bill, Sen. Mike Lee threw his support behind Jenkins less than two days before the state Republican nominating convention.

An endorsement from Lee, who helped Trump in his effort to upend the 2020 election results, has in conservative Utah become almost synonymous with one from the former president. In turn, he has followed in Trump’s footsteps by pocketing some of the money raised by candidates using his name to boost theirs.

(Scott G Winterton | Pool) Utah’s 2nd Congressional District debate between Colby Jenkins, left, and Rep. Celeste Maloy at the KUED studios at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Monday, June 10, 2024.

After Lee introduced Jenkins at the convention, Maloy told delegates, “I refuse to be a rubber stamp, and I will not bow down to anyone. I’m not going to bow down to the party, to leadership, to the media or to a senator.”

Despite securing the party’s support in last year’s special election, and beating a pair of GOP primary challengers by 11 points, Jenkins topped Maloy at convention with 56.85% of delegates’ support, leaving Maloy with 43.15%.

Jenkins indicated Monday that he would take a hard line on rightwing issues, telling reporters that if given the opportunity, he would join the House Freedom Caucus — widely considered one of the furthest right factions of Congress. The caucus’ political action committee, House Freedom Fund, sided with Jenkins last month.

In its statement, the fund took aim at Maloy for her vote on the 2024 bipartisan spending package, saying she “has only been in Congress for a few months and has already compromised with Biden and Schumer.”

“We cannot lead from a position of weakness by continual compromise, stepping away from Republican values that allow our principles to no longer have a seat at the table,” Jenkins said during the debate, pointing at military assistance to Jordan and funding for facilities that provide abortions included in the $1.2 trillion bill. “And so that’s why we’re continuing to lose these types of battles because that leadership does not begin from a position of strength.”

Maloy, who like Jenkins said she would vote in favor of a national abortion ban if one came in front of Congress, pushed back against Jenkins’ definition of leadership on conservative issues, saying it “isn’t throwing out ultimatums or talking points.”

“When people know you’re willing to show up, you’re willing to have the conversations, then you have that influence and you’re part of the conversation about compromise,” Maloy said. “When you’re unbending, you’re not invited to the table.”

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