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Utah GOP Rep. Chris Stewart has a challenger in his own party. See who it is

SHARE Utah GOP Rep. Chris Stewart has a challenger in his own party. See who it is
Salt Lake City attorney Erin Rider is challenging Rep. Chris Stewart in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District.

Salt Lake City attorney Erin Rider is photographed in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. Rider is challenging Rep. Chris Stewart in the 2nd District for the Republican Party nomination.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Republican Rep. Chris Stewart, currently Utah’s longest-serving U.S. House member, will face a challenger within his own party in the state’s newly drawn 2nd Congressional District.

Salt Lake attorney Erin Rider, who describes herself as a lifelong Republican and conservative, launched her campaign against the five-term congressman Wednesday. She aims to be the first candidate to force Stewart into a primary election.

“To me this election is about the future of the Republican Party. We have to decide who we are and what it means to be Utah Republicans,” she said.

The Republican Party needs to get back to its core values, Rider said, including fiscal responsibility, reducing the national debt and balancing the budget — all issues Stewart ran on in his first race in 2012 but hasn’t delivered on, according to Rider. Stewart, she said, has had 10 years to deal with those issues and “so far, here we are.”

“It’s time for change. We have a new district, new boundaries. We can’t expect to bring new people to the party, we can’t expect to bring young voters to the party if we continue to elect the same old, tired politicians,” she said.

Rider, 38, said she’s grateful for Stewart’s decade in office but that there isn’t much to show for it.

“People are frustrated. They feel like we have an out-of-touch representative who doesn’t care and is spending more time trying to find his way into a different kind of job, and that’s not the point. We need people who actually care about the voters and who are here and actually engaging with the voters,” she said, pointing to Stewart’s lack of town hall meetings the past year.

Stewart recently was considered to serve as the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. The position went to another congressman.

Stewart campaign spokeswoman Rhonda Perkes said the campaign welcomes anyone who wants to improve the lives of Utahns and looks forward to an honest and productive dialogue.

“Congressman Stewart has tirelessly worked to ensure Utah’s values are reflected in our nation’s capitol: liberty, opportunity, and individual choice,” Perkes said. “We’re confident the great people of Utah will once again recognize that work, and once again recognize Congressman Stewart as their best representative.”

An ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump during his one term in office, Stewart said there wasplenty of evidence to question the 2020 presidential election results and joined other GOP House members in objecting to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes.

Rider said she did not vote for Trump, who has hinted at running again in two years, in either the 2016 or 2020 elections.

“If he runs, we look at it then. But this race is about Congress,” she said.

The Republican Party has gotten away from its core conservative values, she said. Utah, she said, is a great place to live — “everybody in the nation knows it”— partly because of the state’s values. She said it’s time to return to “smart” policymaking.

“Frankly, I’m kind of tired of being the party of no,” Rider said. “If all we can do is point fingers at the other side, that seems like a little bit of a losing strategy to me.”

The first-time candidate listed financial issues including inflation, rising home prices and student debt among her top concerns. She said it’s hard for people to move forward when stuck under a mountain of debt.

Congress, she said, needs to get spending under control and balance the federal budget.

Rider, who has filed her candidacy with the Federal Election Commission, has raised $113,000, all from individual donations, since late last October, according to her year-end financial disclosure report. Former Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller, chairwoman of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, donated the maximum $8,700 to her campaign.

Rider has hired and paid for a signature gathering firm to secure a spot on the Republican primary ballot. She also will try to win the GOP nomination at the party’s convention under Utah’s dual-track system.

Rider practices corporate law in Salt Lake City. She served as a law clerk for retired GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch on the Senate Finance Committee. She earned a business degree from Brigham Young University and a law degree and master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University.