This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Sen. Mike Lee called Donald Trump's assertion that the election is rigged "dangerous" and the latest outrageous behavior from an "unelectable" candidate.
"It's frightening beyond my ability to describe," Lee, R-Utah, told The Daily Universe, the student newspaper at Brigham Young University. "It's almost an anticipated repudiation of the outcome of the election. ... It delegitimizes the entire process in a way that is really dangerous."
In the third, and last, presidential debate Wednesday, Trump refused to commit to conceding the race if he lost, a hallmark of American democracy.
"What I'm saying is that I will tell you at the time," Trump said during the debate. "I'll keep you in suspense."
Lee's response was similar to Democrat Hillary Clinton's, who called Trump's comments "horrifying," but other members of Utah's congressional delegation saw it differently.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, believes Trump's comments may have been twisted.
"My understanding of Mr. Trump's intention was that he would reserve the right to raise an issue if he believed there was evidence of voter fraud. I don't believe anyone would question the right of a candidate to do that," he said Thursday. "But a fundamental responsibility, and really, one of the fundamental beauties, of our democracy is that we honor the outcome of elections. I think every American supports that concept."
Stewart says he is now undecided in the presidential race and previously called for the Republican nominee to drop out after the "Access Hollywood" video emerged. In that video from 2005, Trump bragged about using his star power to get away with groping women. Lee denounced Trump the same day The Washington Post published the video and has since said he will not vote for his party's nominee. He also won't vote for Clinton, but hasn't said whom he would support.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has stuck by Trump's side, but distanced himself from the candidate's most recent comments. Instead, he pointed to recent comments from Trump's vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana, who said the Republican ticket will bow to the will of the people.
"Senator Hatch agrees with Governor Pence that the candidate should accept the lawful outcome of the election," Hatch's spokesman J.P. Freire said.
And Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said he has faith in the elections.
"Vigilance is wise, but to suggest it is rigged, I see no evidence of that. I have confidence in the integrity of the vote," he said. "Our nation has a rich history of integrity in elections, and I would expect that to be the same here again."
Chaffetz has not ruled out voting for Trump.
This latest controversy comes as Utah has become an unlikely swing state. A series of polls have shown independent conservative Evan McMullin surging and Trump struggling in one of the nation's most reliably Republican states. One poll, conducted by Emerson College, even found McMullin in the lead, while others have shown a statistical tie.
That trend held true in the latest poll, conducted for UtahPolicy.com by Dan Jones & Associates, which pegged Trump at 30 percent, McMullin at 29 percent and Clinton with 25 percent. Released Thursday, the poll took place Oct. 12-18, involved 818 likely voters and had a margin of error of 3.97 percentage points. Dan Jones also polls for The Salt Lake Tribune and the Hinckley Institute of Politics.