Sen. Mike Lee publicly called on fellow Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney and his family to finally endorse his campaign.
Mr. Romney reportedly called Mr. Lee and independent challenger Evan McMullin “good friends,” but said last month that he would not endorse either candidate in the closest race for federal office in deep-red Utah.
Mr. Lee, during a Tuesday night appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” explained his surprise when Mr. Romney first told him he would remain “neutral” in the election.
“Well, he‘s explained that he‘s got two friends in this race, when he first told me that. My reaction was, ‘Who was the other friend?’ And he wants to remain neutral,” Mr. Lee said, before he accused Mr. McMullin of being a “Democrat running in disguise.”
Mr. McMullin is formally running as an independent, but Utah Democrats are not putting up a candidate and their April nominating convention endorsed Mr. McMullin’s independent bid.
Mr. McMullin came into the spotlight in 2016 when he was recruited by anti-Trump Republicans to run for president.
He garnered less than 1% of the vote across the country but picked up 21% in his home state of Utah. Some polls at the time suggested that he could tip one of the nation’s most conservative states in favor of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Running as an independent again, Mr. McMullin has built a coalition of Democrats, independents and disgruntled Republicans in a bid to oust Mr. Lee, a staunch conservative.
Mr. McMullin has not indicated which party he will caucus with if he wins, but he has been endorsed by Jenny Wilson, the Democratic mayor of Salt Lake County, and other Democratic leaders.
Mr. Lee has the support of all his GOP colleagues in the upper chamber except Mr. Romney. He said Tuesday that he previously asked Mr. Romney for his endorsement to no avail.
“As soon as Mitt Romney is ready to, I will eagerly accept his endorsement. He‘s got a big family, and I encourage all of them to go to LeeforSenate.com and make donations to my campaign,” he said.
“Evan McMullin is raising millions of dollars off of Act Blue, the Democratic donor database based on this idea that he‘s going to defeat me and help perpetuate the Democratic majority.”
A new poll, conducted by public polling company Dan Jones & Associates for Deseret News and the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute, found that 41% of the Utah voters surveyed say they will vote for Mr. Lee, while 37% say that they will vote for Mr. McMullin.
The survey, which polled 801 Utah voters Oct. 3-6, has an error margin of 3.46 percentage points.