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How is the GOP primary race for Senate shaping up in Utah? New poll has answers

Former state lawmaker Becky Edwards, left, Sen. Mike Lee, and communications, public policy and campaign strategist Ally Isom. Lee has a large lead over his two challengers for the Republican nomination in the U.S Senate race in Utah.

Former state lawmaker Becky Edwards, left, Sen. Mike Lee, and communications, public policy and campaign strategist Ally Isom. Lee has a large lead over his two challengers for the Republican nomination in the U.S Senate race in Utah. (Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Incumbent Sen. Mike Lee has a large lead over his two challengers for the Republican nomination in the U.S Senate race in Utah.

But the latest Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll shows him with less than 50% of the vote and found that a quarter of voters have yet to make up their minds with less than six weeks before the June 28 primary election.

If the election were held today, 49% percent of voters who plan to vote in the primary would choose Lee, followed by former state legislator Becky Edwards with 19% and community and business leader Ally Isom at 6%, according to the poll. The remaining 26% are undecided.

Dan Jones & Associates conducted the survey of 503 Utah voters who are registered with the Republican Party or unaffiliated but plan to register with the party. Conducted May 7-13, the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

The GOP Senate primary is a battle for the ends of the Republican political spectrum, said Jason Perry, director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.

"This poll shows Mike Lee has strong support from the conservative side of his party, which are often reliable primary voters, which puts him in a strong position heading into June," he said.

"Becky Edwards has claimed the moderate end of the spectrum but will need to win over undecided voters and a larger portion of conservatives to win this election."

Just over three-quarters of poll respondents who identified themselves as very conservative favor Lee, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump. The survey shows moderate and liberal voters tend to support Edwards.

"These polling numbers are different than our internal polling, which shows Sen. Lee much further ahead," Matt Lusty, Lee's campaign spokesman, said of the overall results.

How is the GOP primary race for Senate shaping up in Utah? New poll has answers
Photo: Deseret News

Edwards said Lee failed in two terms to win the hearts and support of Utahns. His job approval rating has dropped into the 40s and he lost nearly a third of the delegates at the Utah Republican Party state convention last month, she said.

"While he is not the only U.S. senator facing a challenger from within his party, he is one of the most vulnerable. More importantly, our campaign is seeing an unprecedented rise in support. This tells me Utah is ready to support my vision for a productive, inclusive, and proactive government and will vote accordingly come June," she said.

Isom said she remains positive and the only poll that counts is Election Day.

"Utah voters clearly see Lee is ineffective and out of touch. We continue to work hard to share our message as a conservative alternative who fights for the right things — for economic strength and energy leadership, for Utah families and Utah water," she said.

Lee had a much larger lead in a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll conducted in March ahead of the Utah GOP state convention. It was also conducted before a series of texts revealed Lee's efforts to help the Trump administration explore ways to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

At the GOP convention last month, delegates, who are more conservative than Utah Republican voters in general, overwhelmingly chose Lee over Edwards and Isom with nearly 71% of the vote. That was enough to win the party's nomination outright, but Edwards and Isom gathered voter signatures to secure spots on the primary ballot.

County clerks will begin mailing ballots to voters June 7. The last day to request a mail ballot is June 21.

The winner of the GOP primary will only have independent Evan McMullin waiting at the general election in November. The Utah Democratic Party voted to not nominate a Senate candidate. Some Democrats argue that McMullin has the best chance to unseat Lee.

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Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.

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