Rodrigo Fernandez-Esquivias: Celeste Maloy is wrong for Utah

We need a candidate who understands our struggles, who is present in our communities and who will fight for progress.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Candidate Celeste Maloy, answers a question alongside Kathleen Riebe, as the two candidates running in the Special Election for the Second Congressional District in Utah, debate at the KUED studios on the University of Utah campus on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023.

On Sept. 6, following Celeste Maloy’s Republican primary victory for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, Gov. Spencer Cox tweeted that she “will make an incredible member of Congress” and “make Utah proud.”

The governor appears to have forgotten about the upcoming general election, where Maloy will take on Democrat Kathleen Riebe, seemingly accepting Maloy as our new Congresswoman. Either that or he admits that, given the undemocratic gerrymandering in Utah courtesy of our Legislature, a Republican primary win is akin to winning the general election. Regardless, Utah voters lose, and democracy fails.

I’m writing this as a college freshman, completely indignant that our state seems incapable of advancing politically. We have a candidate, endorsed by the governor, who touts anti-choice, pro-gun and Trump-era immigration policies. Essentially, Celeste Maloy is an impediment in our fight to progress as a state.

She claims she has “a track record of serving you.” However, unless “you” are in the minority of voters who support the border wall, looser gun laws and abortion bans, Maloy is certainly not representing you.

I recently turned 18 and gained the right to vote. Given how passionate I am about politics, I was so excited to be able to participate in my democracy, an enthusiasm Celeste Maloy does not seem to share. It was incredibly demoralizing to learn that Maloy, who is asking for our vote, did not vote in the 2020 presidential election nor in the 2022 midterm election. Voting is a responsibility entrusted to all citizens, and failing to take advantage of this civil duty to better the state of Utah makes me wonder where Maloy’s priorities lie.

Another example of Maloy’s misguided priorities appears in her discussion of gun control. As many students like myself can attest, the possibility of an active shooter has become one of the most stressful parts of going to school. I do not believe Celeste Maloy understands our fear, given her staunch opposition to gun control legislation. Additionally, a 2022 Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll found that 90% of Utahns support background checks on all gun sales, 79% support raising the age limit to purchase a gun to 21 and 60% support banning assault weapons. So, who is Maloy representing in her self-proclaimed “fight” to defend Second Amendment rights as she states on her campaign website? Certainly not Utah voters.

Celeste Maloy recently applauded the National Right to Life Committee’s endorsement of her campaign, claiming she will “always fight to protect the lives of the unborn.” She should not, in good conscience, label herself as “pro-life” while supporting looser gun laws. At least not in a country where gun violence is the leading cause of death among children.

The extent to which our State Legislature and the Utah Republican Party are responsible for anti-progress and outdated candidates like Celeste Maloy cannot be understated.

But part of the blame must also be assigned to the Utah Democratic Party, which has once again failed to put forth the charismatic candidate we need to motivate young voters. Kathleen Riebe, who will face Maloy in November, is running an uninspiring campaign focused on different types of freedom. We deserve a representative who speaks about the issues we care about with passion, something that I noticed is lacking in Riebe’s campaign as a whole, especially in her television ads and social media presence.

As is commonplace with such candidates, young Democrats will vote for her because we have to, not because we want to.

As a young voter in Utah, it is discouraging to see candidates who seem out of touch with the issues we care about; neither Maloy nor Riebe mention climate change, racial inequality or student debt on their campaign websites.

Considering the unpopular and archaic policies Maloy would advocate for in Congress, I support Kathleen Riebe in her bid for Congressional District 2, and I encourage anyone reading this who is interested in the betterment of our state to do the same.

I just can’t help but wonder what would happen if the Utah Democratic Party connected with their most often overlooked base — young voters — and selected a candidate who not only had a fighting chance in our state but exuded the passion and progressivism we need to get young voters to the polls.

We need a candidate who understands our struggles, who is present in our communities, and who will fight for progress, not stagnation. While Kathleen Riebe is not the ideal candidate, Celeste Maloy should not represent Utah.

Rodrigo Fernandez-Esquivias

Rodrigo Fernandez-Esquivias is currently studying political science at the University of Utah. He’s passionate about local politics and is always finding ways to engage with his community.

The Salt Lake Tribune is committed to creating a space where Utahns can share ideas, perspectives and solutions that move our state forward. We rely on your contributions to do this. Find out how to share your opinion here, and email us at voices@sltrib.com.