Lawmakers question Utah lieutenant governor over Celeste Maloy's eligibility for GOP nomination

The Utah Legislature questioned whether Celeste Maloy is qualified to run as a Republican in the special election race to replace outgoing Rep. Chris Stewart.

The Utah Legislature questioned whether Celeste Maloy is qualified to run as a Republican in the special election race to replace outgoing Rep. Chris Stewart. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Legislative leaders say Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson may not have followed state law when she allowed Celeste Maloy on the special election ballot, but said it's too late for traditional challenges to Maloy's candidacy.

Utah Republican Party Chairman Robert Axson on Wednesday submitted Maloy's name as the winner of the Republican special convention, saying "Ms. Maloy met the party requirement to submit her filing for candidacy with the party."

Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, on Monday released a letter from the state Legislature questioning whether Maloy is eligible to run for office as a Republican, because her voter registration had lapsed at the time she filed.

"Following the @UtahGOP special convention, we received numerous inquiries regarding candidate eligibility and process," Wilson said in a tweet. "These inquiries are of utmost importance to us, and our goal is to provide complete transparency to the delegates, voters, and the people of Utah."

Maloy has been the subject of scrutiny ever since she won a surprise victory in last month's GOP convention, as some delegates and candidates have raised concerns that she isn't eligible to run as a Republican because her voter registration was inactive after she didn't vote in two consecutive general elections.

Federal law doesn't require that congressional candidates be registered to vote, but Utah law says an individual may not "file a declaration of candidacy for a registered political party of which the individual is not a member."

When Maloy filed as a candidate in the special election to replace outgoing Rep. Chris Stewart, who is resigning in September due to his wife's ongoing health issues, she said wasn't aware that her voter registration had become inactive. Henderson said her office noticed the discrepancy with Maloy's registration, and notified the candidate as a courtesy.

Maloy updated her voter registration a few days later, before she filed the necessary paperwork with the state Republican Party.

In a letter to Henderson on Wednesday, Axson affirmed Maloy's eligibility to run as a Republican, saying she meets the requirement under party bylaws that candidates "file (with the party) in writing at least seven days prior to the caucus."

Henderson posted a letter to Twitter on Friday saying, "Maloy has met every lawful requirement and constitutional qualification" to run as a Republican, even though her voter registration was marked as "removable" earlier this year.

The lieutenant governor said state law allows her to "consider declarations of candidacy 'valid unless a written objection is filed.' To date, no written objection has been filed. Furthermore, if a written objection was filed, the candidate would be given the opportunity to cure any alleged problem if possible."

Lawmakers said the deadline to challenge a declaration of candidacy has already passed, and said the deadline "was not adjusted in the proclamation calling the (special election.)"

"Thus, it appears that there is no immediate process to challenge Ms. Maloy's declaration of candidacy except by seeking recourse through the courts," the letter states.

Before accepting Maloy's declaration of candidacy, lawmakers say Henderson was required to "read to Ms. Maloy 'the constitutional and statutory qualification requirements for the office' she was seeking; and require Ms. Maloy to state whether she met those requirements."

House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, said in a statement that Henderson "also has a duty to review declarations of candidacy to verify each candidate's eligibility under state and federal law," which he says did not happen, according to KSL NewsRadio.

Henderson said Maloy was read the qualifications for running and that Maloy signed an affidavit saying she met them. State law doesn't require election officials to check for registration or party affiliation, she told KSL.com last week, saying people are trying to get Maloy disqualified on a technicality that was "immediately rectified."

"That's not how we operate," she said. "We allow candidates time to cure any problems that they may have with their applications, except for a few situations that are spelled out in law that have to be completed or they're ineligible. This is not one of those situations."

Axson submitted Maloy's name as the party convention winner on Wednesday, the deadline for him to do so. Republican candidates Becky Edwards and Bruce Hough also submitted signatures and will face Maloy in a Republican primary Sept. 5 if the Davis County Clerk's Office validates the signatures each candidate turned in.

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

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