Friday, October 20, 2017

Hot Congressional Race In Utah? Don't Write It Off Yet


Ben McAdams visits Mia Love's office

Utah has 4 congressional districts-- all very red. But it would be easy as pie to create a Democratic district. Right now the Republican legislature diluted Salta Lake City's Democratic majority by grafting it onto the very backward, rural, gigantic second CD, basically most of the western and southern part of the state, 13 blood red counties with almost no Democratic votes. If the legislature kept Salt Lake County-- with over a million voters-- whole, it would be a solidly Democratic district, instead of a diluted bit of UT-02, a diluted part of UT-03 and a diluted part of UT-04. In fact, UT-04, even without much of the city itself, just the suburbs south and southwest of the city, makes it the least Republican district in the state. Blue Dog Jim Matheson was still winning congressional races there as recently as 2012. He retired in 2014 and Mia Love beat another Blue Dog, Doug Owens, 50-46%, outspending him $5,159,840 to $866,595. She's been an unobtrusive backbencher and a 100% rubber-stamp for Ryan and Trump.

Wednesday, the mayor of Salt Lake County, Democrat Ben McAdams announced that he's running for her seat next year. (There are 3 other Democrats already running, Darlene McDonald, whose website extols ObamaCare as a good conservative solution to healthcare, Marla Mott-Smith, who doesn't mention healthcare on her website and Tom Taylor, whose website sounds like he's a Berniecrat. McAdams has no issues or positions on his website yet, possibly indicating he's a conservative.

Utah Democrats aren't interested in conservatives; if they were, they'd be Republicans. Last year's caucuses saw Bernie sweep the state. He took 61,333 votes (79.3%) to Hillary's 15,666 (20.3%). Over on the Republican side, Cruz came in first, followed by Kasich and Señor Trumpanzee drew only 24,864 votes, significantly fewer than Bernie. In Salt Lake County. Hillary lost every county to Bernie-- and by huge numbers. Salt Lake County's results were just like the state's:
Bernie- 35,610
Hillary- 9,431
Señor Trumpanzee- 6,542
On election day, Trump crushed Hillary statewide, but not in Salt Lake County, which she won, 154,831 (42.8%) to 117,901 (32.6%). Evan McMullin won 68,209 votes (18.9%).

Yesterday's Salt Lake Tribune seemed very excited by McAdams decision to run, reminding readers that he is "one of the state’s most politically popular and ambitious Democrats." He doesn't sound very exciting to me.
He told the Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday he’d zeroed in on the House seat because Congress and the federal government have created roadblocks to solving issues Utahns face.

“I would hope that our representatives in Washington rolled up their sleeves and knew what was going on and knew what our challenges were and how they could help to solve our challenges,” he said. “Instead it feels like they’re just enamored with the national spotlight and partisan games that both parties seem to play.”

McAdams lives about a block outside the 4th District, but as mayor he represents about 85 percent of the voters in the district. Because he was re-elected last year, McAdams won’t have to give up his position to run.

As mayor, McAdams has been involved in some of the region’s highest-profile issues. He led a committee that studies how to reform homeless services as the county has spent years grappling with how it can improve services and prevent homelessness.

The issue has proved politically challenging as well. A state law required McAdams to pick a location for a new homeless shelter before the state closes a 1,100-bed shelter downtown and build three smaller ones throughout the county. McAdams picked South Salt Lake, which is in the 4th District, sparking a battle with that city’s mayor and upsetting residents near the shelter.

“My approach has been to dive in and to make the decisions that we need to make to move forward,” he said. “That was a tough process, and I guess we’ll see what people think about that. But I hope people will see that I was faced with some tough challenges that we were trying to solve.”

During a 20-minute conversation, McAdams said Wednesday he was willing to work with anyone to get things done-- including President Donald Trump, whom McAdams also called “overly divisive.”

“I would like to see leaders who bring us together rather than divide us,” McAdams said of Trump. “But that won’t stop me from working to find common ground and bring solutions back to Utah.”

He pointed to the state’s request to expand Medicaid to cover very low-income residents. The expansion is considered crucial to the state’s effort to cover drug treatment under the ongoing Operation Rio Grande. The state is awaiting approval from the federal government.

“We’re waiting for federal approval and we’ve been waiting for federal approval for two years now,” he said. “We cannot get the federal government to take action.”

McAdams’ first choice was a much larger expansion of Medicaid to cover far more Utahns. But when the state showed it wasn’t willing to take on the higher costs of the federal insurance coverage under Medicaid, McAdams says he worked with Republican House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, to get something through the Legislature that could pass.

...McAdams is uniquely positioned for a challenge given his high visibility in the county, his experience and his ability to mount a campaign close to his home, said Tim Chambless, an associate political science professor at the University of Utah.

“If he can just do fairly well in the other three, more rural counties, campaign well in the highly suburban parts of Salt Lake County,” Chambless said, “he can win.”

McAdams said he expects the campaign will cost about $2.5 million and that he plans to run a positive campaign but expects plenty of outside money that typically funds negative ad campaigns.

“We sat down with our kids and we told them that we expect that this will be ugly. There will be a lot of negativity. And that does give me pause,” he said. “Ultimately, the moment that good people are bullied out of running for office because of fear of the negativity, then Washington really is lost.

“I decided that I believe in the good, human nature of Utahns. That people know me,” he said. “I care about Utah and that’s why I’m doing this.”

And the first poll is already out! It's more a name ID poll than anything else but it shows McAdams pretty close to Love. The Trib reported this morning that "Both candidates are viewed favorably by a majority of voters in the district, which includes portions of Salt Lake, Utah, Juab and Sanpete counties. Fifty-seven percent of voters viewed Love favorably, with 20 percent saying they had a 'very favorable' view of her. Fifty-six percent of voters had favorable view of McAdams. Fewer voters had a negative view of McAdams than Love. Fifteen percent had either a 'somewhat' or 'very' unfavorable view of McAdams, compared to 36 percent for Love. Eighteen percent of voters had no opinion of McAdams, compared to just 6 percent for Love."

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