2010 Utah Primary election

U.S. Senate

Election date: Monday, Sept. 20, 2010


Mike Lee

Republican party

Age 44
Family Married with three children
Occupation Lawyer
Previous experience Law clerk to U.S. District Judge Dee Benson, 1997-98
Law clerk to U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr., 1998-99
Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Utah, 2002-2005
General Counsel to Utah Governor Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., 2005-2006
Law clerk
Website www.mikelee2010.com
Email mccoy@mikelee2010.com

» Other candidate for this office: Tim Bridgewater

Candidate survey

Why do you think delegates at the state Republican convention rejected the incumbent, Sen. Bob Bennett, and advanced you to a primary? What do they expect you to stand for as a candidate?


The delegates were concerned that Utah values were not represented in D.C. They had grown weary of federal bailouts for failing banks and businesses and deficit spending. They wanted a return to sound fiscal policy; a federal government limited by constitutional principles. In the end, the delegates chose a candidate who could represent Utah values to D.C.

The delegates expect me to be a true conservative voice committed to the principles of limited government set forth in the Constitution. They expect me to be a leader of a coalition of Senators who will stand for values that will place the fate of America back into the hands of Americans and take our fate out of the hands of the federal government.

What should voters know about your background? How have your personal/professional experiences prepared you to serve in the Senate?


I acquired my commitment to the Constitution early on while discussing everything from the Due Process Clause to the Second Amendment around the dinner table. My father, Rex Lee, served as Solicitor General under President Ronald Reagan and later as President of Brigham Young University. I attended most of my father's arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court that gave me a unique understanding of the government from an early age. As an attorney, I acquired a more complete, practical understanding of why the Constitution is essential to the protection of life, liberty, and property.

After graduating from law school in 1997, I served as a law clerk to Judge Dee Benson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. I then clerked for Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr., who was serving at that time on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Court in Newark, New Jersey. After a second clerkship, I joined the Washington, D.C. office of Sidley & Austin, where I specialized in appellate and Supreme Court litigation. Several years later, I returned to Utah after being invited to serve as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Salt Lake City, preparing briefs and arguing cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. I served as Governor Huntsman's General Counsel from January 2005 until June 2006, when I returned to Washington for a one-year clerkship with Justice Alito at the U.S. Supreme Court.

I returned to Utah (and to private practice) in the summer of 2007, joining the Salt Lake office of the Washington, D.C.-based law firm of Howrey LLP. I worked to establish and maintain a reputation as an outstanding lawyer based on his sound judgment, writing and courtroom advocacy skills, and thorough understanding of the Constitution.

I have a proven track record of fighting for conservative principles. I fought the Obama administration in re-opening 77 oil and gas leases in the Uintah Basin. I fought the ACLU in its efforts to have access to the Main Street Plaza in Salt Lake City. I fought for Kane County's rights to maintain access roads on federal ground. I have presented arguments to the Utah legislature promoting a law that allows Utah to assert eminent domain rights against the federal government on Utah public lands. I have counseled grassroots groups on legal initiatives to protect state's rights.

I live in Alpine, Utah, with my wife Sharon and three children.

Under what circumstances would you support the resumption of nuclear testing?


I do not see a need for current underground detonation testing. My father died of complications incurred from Downwinder's syndrome. Any nuclear testing conducted in the U.S., if any, must be done under the strictest safeguards and underground. We must not take the option of testing off the table as we need to continue to maintain a nuclear deterrent to protect our national interests.

Do you support or oppose Utah lawmakers who are considering passing anti-illegal immigration laws, including one similar to Arizona's, because they don't want to wait any longer for the federal government to act? Why or why not?


The federal government is charged with protecting our borders and maintaining and enforcing immigration laws. It is doing neither. States such as Arizona are left without help as they face overwhelming costs and problems stemming from illegal immigration within their state. We can't blame them for acting unilaterally when the federal government fails to act.

Ultimately, states cannot curb the illegal immigration problems alone. Congress needs to fix this problem by:

1. Investing in the technology, personnel, and physical infrastructure necessary to secure the southern border

2. Enforcing existing immigration laws

3. Improving and promoting the use of E-Verify—a nationwide immigration-status verification system designed to enable employers to ascertain quickly and accurately whether would-be employees are authorized to work in the United States;

4. Mandating and enforcing the denial of federal and state welfare benefits to illegal immigrants;

5. Clarify the original intent of the citizenship clause through legislation specifying that children born to illegal-alien parents in the United States are not entitled to automatic citizenship; and

6. Making clear that illegal aliens will not receive amnesty in any form, and must return to their own countries before applying for a visa; illegal aliens should receive no benefit from having entered the United States illegally, and should not be granted guest-worker visas or the opportunity to "purchase" lawful immigration status.

What action should Congress be taking to deal with the continued effects of the recession? What steps should be taken to alleviate the national debt?


We must redesign our tax code to make it simpler, fairer, and far less onerous. With 50% of wage earners paying little or no taxes, too many voters have no stake in government—and no reason to question new government programs that are funded by actual taxpayers. Until we reform the tax code to give all Americans a stake in their government (through the fair or flat tax), Congress will continue to adopt new entitlements, new bailouts, and new relief programs to appease their constituents. We should immediately reduce and ultimately dissolve the capital gains tax to spur investment. This action combined with slashing federal spending will be the engine for future economic growth. I trust the American business community to find new avenues for economic growth and prosperity.

Deficit spending facilitates the continuing growth of the federal government. It is far too tempting to shift the cost of today's federal expansion to future generations. Until we require Congress to operate under a balanced budget, that expansion will continue. A balanced budget amendment is essential to restoring the original, proper role of the federal government.

Should more offshore oil drilling be allowed in light of the BP spill? How do you envision energy development going forward?


The BP spill is extremely unfortunate, but this accident should not chart the course for our national energy policy. We are too beholden to the Middle East and have more than sufficient resources to meet our needs.

Roughly two-thirds of all crude oil used in the United States is imported from other countries. Consequently, Americans send hundreds of billions of dollars each year to countries that, to say the least, do not always have the best interests of the United States in mind. It doesn't need to be this way. Congress needs to authorize oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ("ANWR"). Congress also needs to direct the U.S. Department of the Interior to promulgate its long-awaited oil shale leasing program, which has the potential to unlock hundreds of billions of barrels of shale oil. In Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming, there are over one trillion barrels of proven, recoverable oil shale reserves. (That's more oil than the combined petroleum reserves of the world's top-ten oil producing countries.) But because much of that oil shale is tied up in federal lands, shale oil will continue to be known as "the fuel of the future" until such time as the federal government is willing to lease federal lands for the purpose of shale-oil production. That needs to happen now.

To ensure that we have an adequate supply of clean, reliable energy, we need to develop all available energy resources. No single source will prove sufficient; we need to rely on nuclear power, clean coal, petroleum oil, natural gas, oil shale, solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric power.

What are the most important qualities for a Supreme Court nominee to possess?


To serve on the Supreme Court, a justice must be committed to the text and original intent of the Constitution. Partisan politics should not play a role in a decision of the Court.

What action, if any, should the Senate take on such gay rights issues as the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy or moves to allow gay marriage?


We should not reverse a current policy that works. I do not support gay marriage.

What is your position on federal health care reform?


First and foremost, we must work to defund and repeal the Obama health care plan. Every possible means must be applied within Congress as well as through the application of the Constitution and the law to stop full implementation of this legislation. We must also support meaningful solutions to health care reform which increase the portability of insurance for individuals, allow individuals and small businesses to fully claim the same tax deductions large corporations currently enjoy, ease limitations on health savings accounts (HSAs), put an end to outrageous malpractice damage awards, and allow for communities and groups to unite in associated health plans.

Enabling free market forces to work by allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines will also help drive down costs through positive price competition. Health care reform must never give government the authority to force Americans to buy health insurance, redistribute wealth to satisfy government mandates, or overburden small businesses which would contribute to job losses. The real solution to our current health care challenge is found in less government involvement in the process -- not more.

How would you reform entitlement spending? Specifically, would your plans include eliminating and/or cutting Social Security? Would it eliminate or cut Medicare?


Three entitlement programs—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—are on a course that is as disturbing as it is unsustainable. Through these programs, Congress has promised to provide roughly $50 trillion in "unfunded" benefits to Americans who are alive today—that is, benefits for which Congress lacks the financial means to pay. This approach is irresponsible. While current Social Security beneficiaries must be held harmless, there needs to be a systemic overhaul to these programs, lest they bankrupt the country. To do so, people will need to realize that the benefits those older generations have had, may be significantly reduced in the future. But to not overhaul these programs cannot be postponed or overlooked any longer as if the problem is going to go away.

Election coverage

Deseret News coverage of the 2010 Utah General election.