A Trump supporter has won the special Republican primary election in Utah's 2nd district.
Celeste Maloy, a former staffer for incumbent Rep. Chris Stewart, defeated anti-Trump Republican Becky Edwards in a close three-way race.
Maloy received an endorsement from Stewart, who is stepping down on September 15 to take care of his ailing wife.
House Republican conference chair Elise Stefanik (NY) congratulated Malloy on the big win.
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) September 7, 2023
Maloy received 38% of the vote to defeat Edwards, who took 35%. Bruce Hough, a businessman, came in third with 27%.
The result has been seen as a proxy win for Trump and his brand over the more traditional Republican style typified by Utah Senator Mitt Romney, one of Trump's biggest critics.
Edwards, an anti-Trump Republican who voted for Joe Biden in 2020, targeted more moderate urban voters, while Maloy triumphed by prioritizing Trump's rural base.
“I did debates in the rural counties. I showed up and held events in the rural counties,” Maloy said. “We decided early on that our strategy was going to be to win the rural counties, and then get as much as we could in the more urban counties.”
Maloy, who served as Stewart's top lawyer, spoke to some of the concerns that conservatives have about overreach from the FBI and the politically motivated prosecution of Trump, which she described as something out of a "banana republic."
“We need to make sure the legal process moves quickly and fairly so that it doesn’t bleed into the political process and look like we are a banana republic, third world country where we use prosecution and the law to keep people off of the ballot or change the outcome of the election," she said during a debate.
Hough had similar criticisms of Trump's indictments. On the other hand, Edwards had urged the party to move on from Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee in 2024, and find a new standard-bearer.
Edwards conceded defeat while making no mention of her opponent.
"We ran a campaign that engaged, inspired, and ignited passion, and for that, we are incredibly proud," Edwards said in a statement.
The 2nd district covers parts of Salt Lake City and much of western and southern Utah. Maloy's victory in the solidly red district means she is likely to win the general election against Democrat Kathleen Riebe, a member of the Utah Senate.