Michael Lee, a partner at Howrey, former Supreme Court law clerk, and son of the late U.S. solicitor general Rex Lee, thinks his dad would be proud of the announcement he made yesterday, entering the race for the U.S. Senate from Utah as a challenger to Republican incumbent Bob Bennett.
"I wish he were still around to ask, but I think he would be excited," said Lee of his renowned father, who served as SG in the Reagan administration from 1981 to 1985 and died in 1996. And Mike Lee thinks it would be not just fatherly pride, but appreciation of the platform he is running on: a federalist return to a Congress with more limited powers. "He was a believer in federalism and a conservative, but he wasn't a wacko. He didn't want to take us back to 1787, and neither do I."
Lee said the time was right to make that argument in a period of record deficits and, in his view, vast over-expansion of congressional power. "Congress was not supposed to do everything. It's not the health care provider of last resort, and it's not the car manufacturer of last resort," said Lee. Before making his announcement he worried his message might be too academic or abstract, but he reports positive reaction statewide.
That's a relief for someone like Lee, who grew up with a father prominent in the law and in academia. (Rex Lee was also president of Brigham Young University and dean of its law school.) "It was normal for us to discuss the presentment clause over brussels sprouts at the dinner table," said Lee. "I debated over Wickard v. Filburn in high school," he added, referring to the 1942 Supreme Court decision that expanded congressional powers over commerce.
The 38-year-old Lee said he'll keep up with his practice in the Salt Lake City office of D.C.-based Howrey as he campaigns. "Howrey is being very supportive," Lee said. "I had a good conversation with [managing partner] Bob Ruyak about it."
Lee acknowledged it will be difficult to go up against a three-term incumbent, and said, "Bob Bennett is a good man." But Lee, who is half Bennett's age, added, "A lot of people are ready for a new generation of leaders."