SALT LAKE CITY — While most of the state's attention was focused on the 4th Congressional District race, Utah's other three seats in Congress also were up for grabs in Tuesday's election.
The hardest fought of the three races was in the 2nd Congressional District, where Republican Chris Stewart easily won, capturing 62 percent of the vote over Democrat Jay Seegmiller, who was holding on to 34 percent support with 100 percent of the precincts reporting.
The seat is currently held by the state's only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Jim Matheson, who ran in the new 4th District.
"We've got an opportunity to work together and we need to," Stewart said. "This is a critical time in our nation's history, and we've got to address these problems. We've got to address the slow growth of the economy. We've got to address our debt. We look forward to getting in that fight and trying to do that."
Stewart said his win, without a victory by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, is "bittersweet."
This was the first run for public office by Stewart, a consultant, pilot and author whose books on American exceptionalism have been promoted nationally by right-wing media personality Glenn Beck.
Stewart labeled himself a traditional conservative, a stance that he said helped him win the GOP nomination. His convention win, however, was controversial, and a complaint filed by several of his opponents is still pending before the Federal Elections Commission.
Seegmiller, an Amtrak railroad conductor who unseated a former GOP Utah House speaker in 2008 but lost his bid for re-election two years later, had adopted the campaign slogan "Jay for Jobs" and stressed his ability to work across the aisle.
He said voters in the 2nd District may have been confused by the mailers and phone calls coming from candidates in other districts.
"I don't know how difficult it was for voters to learn about us," Seegmiller said. He said he will continue to "do whatever I can to help bring jobs back to the U.S. and try to bring some balance to this state."
Both candidates had to deal with voters who were confused by the district's new boundaries, redrawn after the 2010 Census to include much of the west side of the state rather than the east.
In the 1st District, with 98 percent of precincts reporting, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, was headed to a sixth term, holding a 71 percent to 25 percent lead over Democratic challenger Donna McAleer, who waged a tough campaign and even out-fundraised the veteran politician since July.
Bishop said he was grateful the election was over and that Utah was spared the majority of controversial advertisements.
He was "still hoping for a miracle" in the presidential race and said, "I'm still convinced the solution to our problem is with Federalism."
McAleer said she will run again.
"People were really ready for an independent-minded leader," she said.
In the 3rd District, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, led Salt Lake City Councilman Søren Simonsen, 76 percent to 24 percent, with close to 100 percent of precincts reporting. Chaffetz spent much of the past year campaigning not for himself, but for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Simonsen campaigned on bringing "a very independent voice" to Congress, citing his service on the nonpartisan City Council since 2005. The Utah Republican Party filed an FEC complaint against him for failing to meet several financial disclosure deadlines.1 comment on this story
Chaffetz said he was honored to retain his seat.
"I felt like if we worked hard, voted right and did a good job of communicating, good things would happen," Chaffetz said, adding that regardless of his win, "we've got a lot of work ahead of us."