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Second Republican challenger submits signatures to qualify for Utah Senate primary

Mar 14, 2022, 2:37 PM | Updated: 3:37 pm
Ally Isom turned in the signatures to try to qualify for the U.S. senate primary....
Ally Isom turned in the signatures to try to qualify for the U.S. senate primary. Photo Credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.

SALT LAKE CITY —  A second Republican challenger to Sen. Mike Lee turned in the required 28,000 signatures to the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s office today, hoping to qualify for the ballot in the state’s Senate primary election, set for June 28.

The challenger, Ally Isom, said it was a big job to gather signatures with only 90 days to do it. Isom is a community leader from Davis County who worked for Gov. Gary Herbert and, more recently, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“It’s a very high threshold at 28,000, and it’s a very short time frame, about 90 days,” Isom told KSL NewsRadio. “So we’ve had hundreds of volunteers braving all kinds of weather, day after day, but you have to supplement with some professionals.”

The signatures submitted by Isom and by Becky Edwards, a former state representative from North Salt Lake, will have to be verified by the lieutenant governor’s office. Isom said they won’t stop gathering signatures in case they have to fill in some gaps.

“We know that every submission has a certain level of invalid signatures for whatever reason and we’ll be moving forward to compensate for that error rate,” she said. 

Senate primary precedents

Sen. Lee won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate at the state party convention in 2016 and won a second term that year. In 2010, he managed to win a spot on the primary ballot along with Tim Bridgewater, defeating incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett. Lee went on to win the Republican primary that year.

But he’s facing a tough challenge from independent candidate Evan McMullin as well as the only Democrat in the race, Kael Weston. University of Utah political science professor Tim Chambless said this year’s election brings to mind an unusual precedent — the 1958 election that allowed a Democrat, Frank Moss, to win with just 38% of the vote.

That year, Chambless told KSL NewsRadio, incumbent Sen. Arthur V. Watkins was challenged by former Price mayor—and future Salt Lake City mayor— J. Bracken Lee. Lee was riding a wave of discontent within the Republican party. Watkins had chaired the Senate committee that censured Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy for his aggressive attempts to find Communists within the U.S. government.

Chambless said McMullin is running this year as an independent because of that 64-year-old precedent. 

“The Salt Lake County Attorney, Frank Moss, with only 38% of the vote, slipped in and won because the Republicans J. Bracken Lee and Arthur V. Watkins split the 62% majority vote,” Chambless said.

Moss served three terms in the U.S. Senate. Orrin G. Hatch defeated him in 1976.

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