Republicans gained back their 222nd U.S. House seat Tuesday night, as GOP nominee Celeste Maloy won a special election for the open 2nd Congressional District in Utah.
This seat, which represents a R+11 district comprising most of western Utah, was vacated by Congressman Chris Stewart back in May, when he announced his intention to resign in order to deal with his wife’s medical issues.
Maloy is a former staffer of Stewart’s and won his endorsement during the September primary. That support likely lifted her up over more high-profile challengers like former State Rep. Becky Edwards and RNC Committeeman (and celebrity Dad) Bruce Hough. Maloy ultimately won that primary contest with 38.8%.
Utah Democrats actually held some long-shot hopes in this contest after an October poll found Maloy up only nine points over Democratic nominee State Sen. Kathleen Riebe. When you add in the fact that national Dems finished stronger than expected on November 7th – and that Riebe managed to outraise Maloy in October – a Democratic upset (or at least an overperformance) suddenly seemed plausible.
Riebe tried to run a national playbook in her ads, portraying Maloy as too extreme on abortion and education. Maloy, on the other hand, pivoted from her primary message to a positive ‘Don’t forget to vote’ Thanksgiving-themed spot.
In the end, the contest wasn’t close. In fact, we were able to call the race for Maloy just eleven minutes after the polls closed.
With about 72% of the precincts in, Maloy is out ahead with 77,120 votes (57.38%). Riebe, on the other hand, received only 45,352 votes (33.75%). While Riebe won the Salt Lake City portion of the district, Maloy took the suburbs and ran far ahead in the rural areas.
This was the last vacancy in the U.S. House, which restores the partisan balance back to the 222 Republicans to 213 Democrats split from last year’s midterms. It also closes the door on the 2023 elections season, as we now officially look ahead to the 2024 Presidential cycle.