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Judge won't remove Maloy from special election ballot

Posted at 9:24 AM, Jul 31, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — A judge will not remove a Republican candidate from the ballot in the special election to replace 2nd District Congressman Chris Stewart.

In a hearing Monday, 3rd District Court Judge Andrew Stone rejected a request for a restraining order to remove Celeste Maloy from the GOP primary ballot.

"We’re talking about upsetting a special election process that is now well underway. Ballots have been mailed and weighing that against the harm claimed here by petitioner, the balance tips strongly in favor of the Lt. Governor's Office and candidate Maloy," the judge said. "Public interest favors not upsetting the election process."

Richard Quin Denning sued Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson and Maloy. He alleged Maloy was not eligible to be a candidate because she was in the process of being removed from Utah's voter rolls, having not voted in the 2020 and 2022 elections. She also lived in Virginia while working for Congressman Stewart.

"We don’t feel that election law was followed. There was a lack of transparency and we want our elections to have integrity," Denning told reporters outside of court on Monday.

Maloy won an upset victory at the Utah Republican Party's convention for the special election. Denning did not advance beyond the first round of voting.

Denning's attorney argued they were not contesting the results of the special convention, but Maloy's candidacy.

"We're here to prevent an illegal candidate from being on the ballot. We’re here seeking to have the election code enforced," Denning's lawyer, Chad Shattuck, said.

Lt. Gov. Henderson's office determined Maloy met the qualifications to be a candidate. Her attorneys argued Denning's lawsuit is too late. Ballots began to be printed on July 21. Nor did Denning sue the Utah Republican Party, which nominated Maloy as their candidate.

"This case is really much ado about nothing," assistant Utah Attorney General Lance Sorenson argued to the judge.

Maloy's attorney, Lowry Snow, argued that his client has been a Republican since 2016 and maintained her Utah residency status. She even renewed her Utah driver license in 2020 with an address in Cedar City. The Utah GOP had determined she was a Republican and met the party's eligibility for candidacy, he told the judge.

Snow conceded that Maloy's voter status had been designated "inactive," but she rectified it. He insisted inactive does not mean you are removed from membership in the GOP.

"There is absolutely no basis in law or fact that would support removal of Ms. Maloy’s name from the ballot," he told the judge.

Maloy herself was not in court for the hearing. Snow said she was out campaigning. Outside court, Denning declined to say if he would pursue an appeal of Judge Stone's ruling to a higher court.

"No comment on that right now. We’re going to just look at everything," he told FOX 13 News. "This whole lawsuit was about compliance with the law and the code. The judge made his decision and we respect that."

Congressman Stewart is resigning from office effective Sept. 15 as his wife deals with an undisclosed health issue. Maloy is on the Republican primary ballot alongside Becky Edwards and Bruce Hough, who both gathered signatures to earn a spot.