Utah’s 2nd Congressional District special election is already heating up as Democrats appear to be going all-in to pull off the upset victory.

State senator Kathleen Riebe was chosen by Utah Democrats as their candidate in the race to succeed Rep. Chris Stewart, a Republican who will be leaving Congress in September.

The Utah GOP picked Celeste Maloy to face off against Riebe in November’s special election.

Of the 435 voting seats in the U.S. House, 222 are held by Republicans. Democrats hold 212 seats. Republicans have a slim majority, meaning they will be fighting hard not to let Democrats take this seat from them in November.

“Utah’s 2nd Congressional District leans heavily Republican. Stewart carried the district by nearly 25 points in 2022, so a Democratic win would be a massive upset. Riebe told Democrats she believes that’s possible because of the unusual circumstances surrounding the special election,” the Salt-Lake Tribune reported.

“The state senator and school teacher received nearly 86% of the delegate’s support during the first and only round of ranked-choice voting, securing her spot in the Nov. 21 special general election. No matter how eager Riebe is to listen to different perspectives, one major barrier stands in her way: She’s a Democrat. And Democrats have historically not performed well in federal elections in Utah. Outgoing Rep. Chris Stewart outperformed his Democratic opponent by 25 percentage points last year, and won by 29 percentage points when he was first elected to the post in 2012,” the outlet added.

Maloy worked as a deputy in the Washington County attorney’s office after earning his law degree from BYU. He then handled public lands issues for the Utah Association of Counties.

She now believes that state and local governments are much more capable of managing public lands than the federal government. In testimony to the House Natural Resources Committee in 2017, Maloy charged that federal workers frequently exceeded the authority Congress granted them when making decisions.

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“My experience in interacting with land management agencies, particularly the Bureau of Land Management, is that administrative processes overshadow the agency mission given by Congress. We routinely see federal agency employees treat their manuals and handbooks as if they are the ultimate law,” Maloy said, adding that local governments, “have few effective options for limiting agency overreach.”

State GOP Sen. Don Ipson is one of many Utah officeholders who has endorsed Maloy precisely because of her focus on public lands.

“She’s immensely qualified in the public lands arena, which is very important to Utah,” Ipson said, explaining that Maloy’s experience as a legal counsel in Stewart’s office should help ease the transition if she is elected in November.

“She will be ready to hit the ground running. She already has the relationships with people she’ll need to get things done. She’s well qualified to continue his [Stewart’s] work,” Ipson added.

Maloy avoided questions about her preferences for president during the campaign leading up to her convention victory, only pledging to back the eventual Republican nominee, whoever that may be.

“I think it’s my job to support whoever the [presidential] nominee is,” Maloy said when asked who she favored during a pre-convention debate in Davis County. “I don’t know who is going to be on the ballot, but whoever it is, whoever the voters choose, that’s who I’m going to be supporting.”

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