SALT LAKE CITY — In a race he was all but guaranteed to win, Republican Mike Lee beat out Democrat Sam Granato Tuesday to become Utah's newest U.S. Senator.
With 3 percent of the vote counted, Granato conceded the race. The final unofficial results had Lee had 61 percent to Granato's 33 percent of vote.
Come January, Lee will join Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, in Washington as the junior senator from Utah. At 39, Lee will not only will be the youngest member of the Utah congressional delegation, but also the youngest elected member of the U.S. Senate.
Lee said he was prepared to hit the ground running. "There's not any time to waste. What we're here to do is remind people that this is just the beginning of a process … in which we stop complaining about what we don't want from the federal government and we start telling what we do want out of the federal government."
Government is not supposed to be "all things to all people. That's what the tea party is all about," Lee said.
His immediate plan is to build a coalition with senators who are "like minded, constitutionally oriented. Let's find a way to return power to the states and the people."
Sam Granato, who had trailed in the polls throughout the campaign, seemed to narrow the gap in the final days before the election, but it wasn't enough. Granato, owner of a food-importation business in Salt Lake City, said he ran for office because he feels that politics in Washington have become too polarized. He hoped to be a voice of moderation and believed that as a small-business owner he would have been better suited than a career politician in representing Utahns in Washington, D.C.
But in an election year where conservatives carried the day, Granato did not stand much of a chance in one of the nation's most conservative states. Mike Lee out-raised his challenger 10-1.
In his concession speech, Granato said that in a telephone call to Lee, that Lee told him that the political opponents need to "break bread because he (Lee) wants to understand what brought people to you (Granato)." The Democrat said he would be happy to oblige.
As for the Senate moving forward, Granato said, "My advice would be to both parties to get civil, work together and reach across the aisle."
As the son of former Solicitor General and Brigham Young University President Rex Lee, Mike Lee grew up in Washington, D.C., and Utah. Lee said he developed a love the U.S. Constitution as he watched his father argue cases in front of the Supreme Court.
Lee is a staunch conservative who campaigned on the view that the federal government is too big and that the Constitution is under attack, which earned him the respect of the tea party. He has said he plans to join with like-minded individuals elected Tuesday to form a tea party caucus in the Senate.
Thanks largely to the support of the tea party, Lee and Republican Tim Bridgewater knocked three-term incumbent Bob Bennett out of the race in the state convention earlier this year by claiming that Bennett was not conservative enough. Lee edged out Bridgewater in a tight primary election. After that, it was smooth sailing for the Lee campaign.
A lawyer by trade, Lee graduated from BYU Law School after he served as the student body president as an undergraduate. He clerked for Utah judge Dee Benson and Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, worked in the Washington, D.C., law office of Sidley Austin and the Utah office of the D.C.-based firm Howrey LLP, where he represented EnergySolutions. Lee has also served as assistant U.S. attorney as well as general council to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. He and his wife, Sharon, reside in Highland, and are the parents of three children.
Lee has promised to bring radical change to Washington, including term limits and aggressive reform in how federal dollars are doled out for state projects. He also wants to phase out social security and get rid of the Department of Education.