GOP sticking with Celeste Maloy as convention winner after delegates question eligibility

Utah 2nd Congressional District candidate Celeste Maloy speaks during the Utah Republican Party’s special convention in Delta on Saturday. After Maloy won, some delegates have questioned her eligibility for the party nomination.

Utah 2nd Congressional District candidate Celeste Maloy speaks during the Utah Republican Party’s special convention in Delta on Saturday. After Maloy won, some delegates have questioned her eligibility for the party nomination. (Ryan Sun, Deseret News)

Save Story
Leer en español

Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Celeste Maloy won a surprise victory in the Utah Republican Party's special convention Saturday, upsetting former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes in the final round of voting.

But some party delegates have cried foul, saying the former chief legal counsel for Rep. Chris Stewart — whose seat the candidates are aiming to fill — may not have been eligible for the party's nomination because she didn't vote in the state for the past two general elections, making her voter registration inactive.

Maloy is "definitely" eligible to run, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson told Wednesday evening, explaining that being registered to vote is not a requirement to run for office.

Utah GOP Chairman Robert Axson said he will submit Maloy's name as the convention winner, and Maloy explained she didn't vote because she was working for Stewart in Washington, D.C., in 2020 and 2022 and wanted to protect her boss from claims about absentee ballot fraud, according to KSL NewsRadio.

"I was working in (Washington, D.C.) and there was so much concern about voter fraud and those elections and I was working for a politician," she said. "I didn't want my absentee ballot from out of state to get flagged as a fraudulent vote. I didn't want my boss to be answering any questions about my vote."

Registered voters in Utah who don't vote in two consecutive federal elections are listed as inactive in the state's database, so Maloy said she re-registered as a Republican in Iron County on June 15 after realizing she was inactive — three days after she filed as a candidate.

The U.S. Constitution doesn't require federal candidates to be registered voters, only that they be U.S. citizens for at least seven years, be at least 25 years old and an inhabitant of the state at the time of the election.

"There's no requirement for a congressional candidate to be a registered voter," Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson said in an explanatory Twitter thread Tuesday. "Candidates are required to sign an affidavit stating their address, political party, and that they meet the qualifications for the office."

Utah law, however, says that a candidate "may not ... file a declaration of candidacy for a registered political party of which the individual is not a member, except to the extent that the registered political party permits otherwise in the registered political party's bylaws." It also says a candidate must state whether they are a member of the party before filing a declaration of candidacy.

The Utah Republican Party Constitution states that "party membership is open to any resident of the state of Utah who registers to vote as a Republican."

One prominent Republican lawmaker said the Elections Office should have caught any issues with Maloy's candidacy declaration and given her time to fix her registration before filing.

"A candidate & the LG's office have the duty to check eligibility," state Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton tweeted Tuesday. "If this was caught, the candidate could withdraw, register, then re-register."

Henderson told that Utah law only requires her office to ensure that the candidates attest they are a member of the party they are running for, and they are not required to verify that membership aligns with party bylaws. In fact, she said, her team went above and beyond to notify Maloy of the status of her registration when they realized it was inactive.

"If you're registered in good faith and you've never registered elsewhere and you've never unaffiliated with the party, or you've never asked to have your name taken off the voter rolls, then you would assume that you're still a registered voter in the state," she said. "If they're making a good faith effort, there is no way I'm going to disqualify them on a little technicality. ... There's just no legal problem here."

"The elections office moved her to an inactive voter status. Not sure that means she was no longer a Republican. She did register to vote as a Republican. She never revoked that," state Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, tweeted.

"CD2 is a mess, instead of clarity there are questions, which usually shows bad process," McCay said in another Twitter thread Wednesday morning. "Each candidate asserts that they are qualified to run on the candidate application with the constitution and the statutory references. ... Perhaps citing the qualifications isn't enough. Maybe Utah needs a 'preflight checklist' for candidates to know that they are compliant because some of the statute might not be clear for a lay person.

Axson said Maloy filed the required paperwork with the party on June 16, the day after she re-registered to vote as a Republican.

But even if the Republican Party wanted to vacate her win, each party needs to certify its nominee to the state elections office by July 5, leaving GOP leaders little time to organize behind an alternative.

In texts viewed by KSL NewsRadio, Axson told delegates they no longer have standing to raise questions of Maloy's eligibility now that the convention voting is over.

"The time where a point of order could have been raised about these questions would have been prior to the start of the convention," he said.

On the same text thread, delegates questioned whether Maloy actually lives in the 2nd Congressional District, claiming the Cedar City address she listed when she filed to run is her sister's house.

Maloy said the address is her sister's, and that she lives there when in the state and maintains it as her "permanent address."

"That's where I live," she said. "I don't know what kind of wages people think you make as a staffer, but I did not have the funds to maintain a house in both (Utah and Washington, D.C.)."

Contributing: Lindsay Aerts

Related stories

Most recent Utah elections stories

Related topics

Utah congressional delegationUtah electionsUtahPoliticsSouthern Utah
Bridger Beal-Cvetko covers Utah politics, Salt Lake County communities and breaking news for He is a graduate of Utah Valley University.


Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast