ST. GEORGE — In the week following her election to Congress, Rep. Celeste Maloy is already facing a challenger for the Republican nomination next year.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (L) and Utah congresswoman Celeste Maloy pose after Maloy was sworn in to the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., Nov. 28, 2023 | Image from Celeste for Congress Facebook page, St. George News

Maloy won the special election Nov. 21 to replace former Republican Congressman Christ Stewart who left office in September citing concerns related to his wife’s health. Several people primarily from within Utah’s 2nd Congressional District stepped forward to be the Republican nominee to run in the special election.

Maloy, who was legal counsel for Stewart’s office until his resignation, chose to run and subsequently won the Republican nomination and the resulting primary election. She then beat Democrat challenger Kathleen Riebe and various third-party candidates in the general election.

Maloy accomplished this despite questions raised about her eligibility to run as the Republican candidate. Concerns were voiced over her residency and voting record – or lack thereof – in the 2020 and 2022 elections.

Sworn into office this week, Maloy told the Salt Lake Tribune after her election win last week that she wasn’t surprised people were already lining up to run against her.

“It’s politics. I knew there’d be somebody,” she told the Tribune. “I’m just going to keep working.”

Enter Colby Jenkins.

In this file photo, Colby Jenkins, then director of the Atwood Innovation Plaza, shares how the plaza helped first responders during the Coronavirus pandemic, St. George, Utah, May 15, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

An Army veteran, St. George resident and fellow Republican, Jenkins recently launched an exploratory committee to examine the feasibility of running for Congress next year. He has also filed with the Federal Elections Commission to run, which allows him to raise and spend money for his campaign.

Creating a committee while also filing with the FEC is the same track former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson took earlier this year as he launched the unofficial beginnings of his campaign for Senate.

Jenkins has served as an Army Special Forces Green Beret commander who operated in various parts of the globe, including Afghanistan and South America. He has also been a consultant for members of Congress and the Pentagon on matters related to counter-terrorism.

He is a graduate of West Point, and his daughter Olivia was the first woman from St. George appointed to the military academy.

Jenkins currently serves as a colonel in the Army Reserve.

In the private sector, Jenkins works in the tech industry and was the director of Utah Tech University’s Atwood Innovation Plaza for a time. He is presently a director of tech integration for Crown Castle, a national company that helps create technological infrastructure.

According to Jenkins’ exploratory committee website, he recognizes a “deficit of military combat veterans serving in Congress” and makes note of the “disastrous retreat from Afghanistan and other national security policy blunders.” Because of this, Jenkins “seeks to lend his experience to correct our nation’s standing in the world and take the goodness of Utah’s Congressional District #2 (CD2), where he resides, to Congress.”

The site also mentions government overreach, which was one of the main platforms of Maloy’s own campaign.

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