Incumbent Rep. Celeste Maloy holds narrow lead over Colby Jenkins in Utah’s 2nd District GOP primary

Donald Trump and Maloy’s Utah colleagues in the U.S. House of Representives endorsed the incumbent, while Sen. Mike Lee has been a vocal supporter of Jenkins.

In a race that pitted big Republican endorsements against each other in the Beehive State, 2nd Congressional District six-month incumbent Rep. Celeste Maloy held a tight lead over challenger Colby Jenkins nearly two hours after polls closed.

The candidates were within four percentage points of each other late Tuesday evening — Maloy had secured 51.82% of votes and Jenkins 48.18%, according to early, unofficial returns.

Editor’s Note • The Salt Lake Tribune’s coverage of the 2024 2nd Congressional District primary election has moved to this story.

Both Maloy, the former legal counsel for her predecessor Chris Stewart, and former U.S. Army officer Jenkins have received heavyweight endorsements for the seat, with former President Donald Trump and Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee backing different candidates in the race.

As the sun went down, Maloy, who said she has a red-eye flight back to Washington, told reporters, “We all want a Republican Senate, a Republican House. We all want a smaller, more accountable government. We all want more conservative spending. We want the same thing.”

She addressed supporters around 9:15 p.m. and left her party at the Utah Trucking Association in West Valley City shortly after.

“I like the way the numbers are trending right now,” Maloy told The Salt Lake Tribune late Tuesday, “but I’m natural cautious and I’m not gong to get ahead of the numbers. "

(Abby Gray | The Salt Lake Tribune) 2nd Congressional District candidate Rep. Celeste Maloy speaks to reporters at an election night party in West Valley City, Tuesday, June 25, 2024.

“Because the results are still very close and there are several thousand outstanding ballots to be counted, we are looking forward to watching as more updates come in,” Jenkins said Wednesday morning on X, continuing, “We will make additional comments as more updates come in and when the final outcome becomes clear. As it stands the race is still too close to call.”

He added, “I’ve enjoyed getting to know so many new Utahns from across the district during this campaign and I’m humbled by the strong support we received in such a short amount of time. I also want to congratulate Congresswoman Maloy for the strong support she received and for running a good campaign.”

Maloy was chosen to represent the district in a special election last November after winning a GOP primary and Utah Republican delegates’ support. This year, she nearly missed the ballot after declining to collect signatures and losing at the party’s April nominating convention

After asking delegates to reward her trust in them, Maloy came out of the convention with 43.15% of their votes. Jenkins ultimately received 56.85% of delegates’ support, missing a trip straight to the general election by less than 4 percentage points.

Jenkins’ victory followed a surprise endorsement from Lee the day before the nominating convention. The senior member of Utah’s congressional delegation has taken issue with Maloy’s votes to extend a revised Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and working across the aisle to pass a federal budget.

Lee’s pick has signified he would take a hard line on conservative issues, expressing interest in joining the House Freedom Caucus, widely considered one of the furthest right factions of Congress. The caucus’ political action committee, House Freedom Fund, has endorsed Jenkins over their incumbent colleague.

When Jenkins took the stage, Lee accompanied him. Maloy followed with Utah Rep. Burgess Owens — who, along with Utah’s other representatives in Congress, has endorsed their incumbent colleague — in tow.

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

At the West Valley City headquarters for the Utah Trucking Association, where Maloy gathered with supporters, North Tooele Fire District Marshal Buck Peck said he supports Maloy because she’s literally been “all hands on deck” helping his fire department.

(Abby Gray | The Salt Lake Tribune) Refreshments during an election night party for Rep. Celeste Maloy in West Valley City, Tuesday, June 25, 2024.

“She actually came out today to help us push one of our apparatuses back,” Peck said.

At a televised debate earlier this month, the two candidates sparred over who could best support former President Donald Trump from Congress if he returns to the Oval Office. At the time, Trump had not yet endorsed anyone in the race.

“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 from a podium, 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.”

Maloy, who had already won over Trump’s former national security adviser Robert O’Brien and Trump-appointed former Interior Secretary David Bernhard, secured the ex-president’s support just over a week before the primary election.

“There’s always a debate about how much endorsements matter in an election,” Maloy said Tuesday. “And I think both of the races I’ve run so far in 2023 and 2024 endorsements have ended up playing a huge role and that’s rare, so I’m excited that President Trump was willing to endorse me and I’m excited to work with him again.”

The winner of the primary race will face Democrat Nathaniel Woodward in the November general election.

Reporters Robert Gehrke and Yeonseung Kim contributed to this story.

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