Republican Celeste Maloy won a Utah special election Tuesday to replace her former boss, U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, in a race that will put a woman back among Utah's five-member congressional delegation for the first time since 2019.
Maloy beat state Sen. Kathleen Riebe, who as minority whip is the Utah Senate’s second-ranking Democrat.
“I think the fact that a girl from a teeny-tiny town with an unknown name and no budget can jump into a congressional race is a sign that the American Dream is alive and well," said Maloy Tuesday night. “And I hope other people see me, and realize that.”
Stewart resigned in September after 10 years in Congress because his wife is ill. Maloy was Stewart's chief legal counsel. She had Stewart's endorsement and that of former Utah U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, and was favored to win in the reliably Republican 2nd District, which sprawls from Salt Lake City to the state's western and southern edges.
Maloy will be only the fifth woman in history to represent Utah in the U.S. House. The most recent was Mia Love, who served from 2015-2019 and was the state’s first Black congresswoman. Utah has never had a woman in the U.S. Senate.
A southern Nevada native and current resident of southwestern Utah, Maloy campaigned on improving security on the U.S.-Mexico border, reining in what she calls “out of control” federal spending, protecting religious freedom and putting Utah more in control of natural resources on its federal lands.
Maloy will enter a U.S. House of Representatives controlled by Republicans who in recent months have been roiled by infighting over government spending.
“I know congress is a bit of a mess right now and I feel like I can go and be helpful, and be a good solid member who is even keeled and low drama,” Maloy said after her victory.
While she thinks the heated debates over spending are good, she said she's hoping she can be "a uniter in the conference.”
She will join Utah’s three other Republican U.S. House members. The state’s two U.S. senators are also Republican.
Maloy dominated Riebe in fundraising, bringing in almost $600,000 and spending more than three-quarters of that over the seven months leading up to the election. Riebe brought in half that amount and spent about 90%, according to candidate reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
After her loss, Riebe said she was focused on the smaller victories of her campaign.
“We brought the Democratic Party together, we are more cohesive than ever and people are really frustrated with reproductive rights,” she said in an interview.
Riebe kept the door open to running again, and said she was hopeful Utah was shifting from a red state to a purple one.
“I feel really good about ... building the base of the Democratic Party and trying to turn this state purple.”
A six-term congressman and U.S. Air Force veteran, Stewart set off a Republican scramble to fill his seat after his announcement in May he was resigning. At a Republican convention in June, Maloy was the top vote-getter among more than 10 candidates seeking the job.
Maloy went on to ride a wave of rural support and win a three-way Republican special primary Sept. 5, beating former state Rep. Becky Edwards and businessperson Bruce Hough.
The primary was a rare gauge this year of how Republican voters feel about a string of indictments against Donald Trump. Maloy, a Trump supporter, beat Edwards, a critic of the former president.
Maloy highlighted her experience working for Stewart in an Oct. 26 debate with Riebe.
“I’ve been working for this district. I’ve been solving issues that people in this district have called their congressman about and asked for help,” Maloy said in the debate. “Congress is struggling right now. ... We really need somebody to get into this state who knows how Congress works.”
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