SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – In one of the nation’s most hotly contested U.S. Senate races, Sen. Mike Lee has declared victory, and challenger Evan McMullin has conceded.
It should be noted that both candidates made their call with only 25% of the vote reported.
The Provo senator will serve a third term in office in what has been a competitive race for the Utah seat for the first time since the 1990s. While Lee did not face a Democratic opponent in the race, chief independent challenger Evan McMullin managed to raise millions from both Republican and Democratic voters.
The race between Lee and McMullin broke a Utah record, financially, with over $17 million being raised during the cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org. Lee’s campaign spent over $9.7 million – nearly double that of his challenger.
Many considered the race to be, at least in some ways, a referendum on former Pres. Donald Trump’s direction for the Republican Party. McMullin, despite not running under a party banner, attempted to position himself as a conservative in opposition to Trump’s heavy-handed tactics. Lee, however, took a few chances during the campaign to distance himself from Trump, noting in his debate with McMullin that he was not afraid to break with his party when he felt it necessary. Trump endorsed Lee.
Famously, in an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program, Lee begged the state’s other Republican senator, Mitt Romney, to “get on board” and endorse him. And speaking to reporters after a debate, the two-term senator said what his campaign had previously avoided saying: “It’s close.”
Lee also faced an uphill battle after text messages with then-President Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows emerged. In the texts, Lee discussed ways to challenge the 2020 results in the days and weeks after the election. Lee has claimed he was merely doing due diligence and he notes that he did not join congressional Republicans who objected to the results when they were certified on Jan. 6, the day of the insurrection.
First sworn into the Senate in 2011, Lee, 51, serves as a ranking member of Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, and he served as the committee’s chair in the 116th Congress from 2019-2021. He also serves on the Committee on Aging, the Committee on the Judiciary; the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.