Former congressional aide Celeste Maloy will win the Republican special primary election to succeed her onetime boss, GOP Rep. Chris Stewart, in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, CNN projects.
Stewart, who had endorsed Maloy, is expected to vacate the seat on September 15 over his wife’s health concerns. Maloy will be heavily favored to keep the deep-red seat in GOP hands in November. She is also poised to be the first woman in Utah’s congressional delegation since Republican Mia Love left office in 2019.
Maloy will finish ahead of former state Rep. Becky Edwards and former Utah GOP Chairman Bruce Hough in the primary. She will next face Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Riebe, who will be a decided underdog in the November 21 general election for a district that covers the western portion of the state, stretching from the Salt Lake City area to St. George. Stewart won a sixth term last fall by 26 points, while former President Donald Trump would have carried it under its current lines by 17 points in 2020.
Maloy, who worked as a counsel in Stewart’s Washington office, earned her spot on the ballot by winning a nominating convention in June, while Hough and Edwards qualified by collecting sufficient signatures.
Maloy faced questions over her eligibility for the special election primary ballot over voter registration issues. She was marked inactive in the state’s voter database because she did not cast a ballot in 2020 and 2022, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, after she relocated to Virginia to work for Stewart. But the state GOP submitted her name for the ballot, noting that no objections to her candidacy were filed before the convention.
Maloy made government overreach a focus of her campaign. She proposed defunding federal agencies to eliminate “anything they’re doing that Congress hasn’t authorized.”
Voters are “worried that these executive branch agencies have too much power, they’re not checked and they’re too involved in our lives,” Maloy told CNN affiliate KUTV in an interview. “And I happen to agree.”
Maloy’s campaign received financial support from VIEW PAC, which is dedicated to recruiting and electing Republican women to Congress. She was outraised by both Edwards and Hough, both of whom loaned their campaigns six-figure sums.
Edwards, on the campaign trail, touted her experience as a state lawmaker, focusing on priorities such as health care, education and fiscal responsibility. She was making her second bid for federal office in as many years. She challenged GOP Sen. Mike Lee in a primary last year as a moderate opposed to Trump and took 30% of the vote.
She expressed “regret” for her 2020 support for Joe Biden at a debate in June, saying she had been “extremely disappointed” with his administration, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Hough – the father of professional dancers Julianne and Derek Hough, who rose to fame on “Dancing with the Stars” – had positioned himself as the candidate most supportive of Trump.
His campaign focused on debt reduction and deficit control, citing his family as one of the reasons why he was running.
“With 22 grandkids, 10 kids and a $32 trillion (US) debt, I’m very anxious about their future and about the future of all Americans and all Utahns,” Hough, a former Republican national committeeman from Utah, told ABC4 in a video posted in June. “It’s time that we actually do something about it.”