CEDAR CITY — U.S. Senate hopeful Becky Edwards made a campaign stop in Cedar City on Monday.
Edwards, a Republican who served 10 years as a state legislator, is campaigning to unseat Sen. Mike Lee, who is seeking his third six-year term in 2022.
Edwards spoke to a group of Southern Utah University students during an informal lunchtime discussion held on campus at the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service. Afterward, she spoke to Cedar City News about her candidacy.
After representing Utah House District 20 in Davis County from the beginning of 2009 until the end of 2018, Edwards and her husband served a humanitarian church service mission in American Samoa for 20 months before returning in January. In late May, she announced her candidacy for U.S. Senate.
Edwards said her decade of experience as a state legislator, along with her professional background as a social worker and counselor, has helped her see the importance of collaboration over divisiveness. She said seeing politics becoming more contentious at the state and national level has motivated her to address that divisiveness.
“There is a better way. And I know it because I legislated in that better way,” she said. “And that’s what kind of brought me to this race, is thinking this is a critical time for us to begin to rein in these kinds of conversations and work with each other to address the very real challenges that Utah businesses and families are facing right now.”
Edwards said she brings “a different type of leadership” to the table.
“In fact, what I believe is a better leadership that leads to better solutions and better politics, that is based on more productive, proactive and inclusive work.”
“I’d like to see things discussed in a more bipartisan way,” Edwards continued. “I’d like to see people sit down at the table, roll their sleeves up and just get to work. I’d like to see less posturing, less hyperpoliticization and more having discussions with the people we’ve been elected to represent at the forefront of our minds. I think it’s possible. We used to have that. And now when it happens, it’s newsworthy, and it shouldn’t be newsworthy. It should just be a matter of course.”
Edwards also said she’d like to see more unity and collaboration within the Republican Party itself.
“This is a time of great opportunity for the Republican Party,” she said. “It’s a time to really coalesce and come together and find common ground on the basic principles that have held the Republican Party together for centuries.”
Edwards also issued a challenge for people to try out with their family members this week as they gather for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Think of one person you will be sitting across the table with … maybe this is an uncle, you know, your sister, your grandpa,” Edwards encouraged. “Think of an issue that has been difficult to discuss in the past, and here’s some things that you can do to begin to be a bridge builder with the people that you love and care about the most.”
Doing so, she said, will enable people to have “conversations that exemplify the very thing that we want to see more of in our political elected officials: civility, working together, being respectful, honoring people’s perspectives and being willing to disagree without being disagreeable.”
Edwards expressed optimism about her chances of defeating Lee, whom she called “incredibly ineffective.”
“This is how we beat Mike Lee, is we continue to meet with people across the state who want to see something better, who feel unheard, ignored, disenfranchised and have felt like that for a long time. This is a message we’re hearing across the state. This is why I’m in the race. And I’m looking forward to continuing to align with everyday Utahns who feel the same way.”
Edwards is one of four Republicans who have declared their candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat occupied by Lee, joining Benjamin Davis, Ally Isom and Tyrone Jensen. They’ll face off in a primary race next June, with the general election taking place Nov. 8. Also running against Lee are Democratic challengers Allen Glines, Nicholas Mitchell and Austin Searle, who will appear on their party’s primary ballot in June. Additionally, independent candidates Evan Barlow and Evan McMullin have also entered the somewhat crowded race.
Edwards said she sees herself as a frontrunner among the challengers.
“Since we announced our candidacy at the end of May, I have continued to be the leading Republican challenger in this race, in every metric possible in the polling,” Edwards said.
Edwards also noted that her campaign has seen 89% of its individual contributions coming from within the state of Utah, whereas Lee’s in-state individual contributions are at just 12% during that same period.
“His support is soft, even within the Republican Party,” Edwards said of Lee. “He barely cracks 50% approval after two terms in a solidly red state. People want something better. It’s important to remember that he was elected in 2010. In 2016, his first reelection, he had no Republican opponents. So for Republicans who want to see something better, they have had effectively no option. This is the first time that Republicans have an alternative to Mike Lee.”
Edwards said Lee ran on two main issues when he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010.
“The first was limited government. One of the ways you could support limited government was to have term limits,” Edwards said. “He’s a strong supporter of term limits, with the U.S. Senate being limited at two terms. He’s coming up on two terms. He’s still a strong supporter of term limits, but not for himself.”
In contrast, Edwards said she voluntarily chose to not run again for the Utah House in 2018.
“For me, I supported term limits,” she said, “I believed it. I did it. I didn’t wait for the government to tell me that I had to. I knew it was right.”
Edwards said the second thing that Lee strongly supported when he first ran in 2010 was fiscal responsibility and the national debt.
So we see his two main issues since 2010, term limits and the national debt. Even after 11 years, we have seen no effective movement from Senator Lee on either of those issues, let alone on the issues that matter to everyday Utahns: health care, housing, education, you know, the issues that were brought up today with these students, mental health, suicide … economic issues. These are heart-and soul-issues to everyday Utahns. And we’ve just seen ineffectiveness to be a very concerning thing for the incumbent.
Edwards said that as she has visited various parts of the state on the campaign trail, “it’s been an exciting thing to see people align with our vision.”
“I know things can be better. I know that Utah thrives when we have conversations that are inclusive, I know that Utah thrives when we have leaders who are productive, and actually work to get something done. I know that Utah thrives when we have someone who is proactive, intentionally seeking out voices from around the state on issues and saying, ‘How can we work together? How can we get something done?’”
“That type of proactive, productive and inclusive leadership is what I think Utahns want,” Edwards added.
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