Although Republican-turned-independent challenger Evan McMullin gave U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) a run for his money, the incumbent chalked up a hard-fought re-election victory on Tuesday.
McMullin, who left the GOP to launch a long-shot 2016 presidential bid in an effort to siphon votes away from Donald Trump, resurfaced as a fierce competitor against Lee.
In the end, the sitting senator was able to coalesce a strong base of conservative Republican voters who showed up to the polls and ensured that the Senate seat would remain under GOP control in the upcoming legislative session.
For his part, McMullin was able to convince Utah Democrats not to put forward a candidate in the race. Instead, the Democratic Party cast its lot with him in hopes that liberals and Never-Trump Republicans would produce enough combined votes to unseat the incumbent.
Lee spent much of the campaign denouncing his rival as a Democrat in disguise, which was not a difficult argument to make. McMullin used a Democratic-aligned fundraising platform to raise money for his campaign and hit the trail with Democrats and far-left activists like actress Alyssa Milano.
Instead of backing a third-party candidate or staying out of the 2020 presidential race altogether, McMullin gave Democratic nominee Joe Biden his endorsement.
A vote for Joe Biden isn't a commitment to support every decision he makes. It's a vote to defend the republic, take back our government from Vladimir Putin and Trump family corruption, restore decency, and the chance to advance unifying solutions for the country.
— Evan McMullin 🇺🇸 (@EvanMcMullin) October 29, 2020
As the race tightened last month, Lee urged his colleague, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), to support his campaign and help secure a GOP majority in the chamber.
“Please get on board,” he said during a Fox News Channel interview. “Help me win an election. Help us do that. You can get your entire family to donate to me.”
Fortunately for the Republican Party, Lee was able to secure a victory even without Romney’s backing. McMullin acknowledged that reality in a concession speech while applauding the “coalition” that fueled his competitive campaign.
“We rejected the politics of division and extremism, and we united,” he claimed. “Unity is what made this election the most competitive in nearly half a century.”
For his part, Lee promised to keep working on behalf of all Utahn during his upcoming term in the Senate.
“The best is yet to come,” he said. “I can’t wait.”