SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Democrats nominated Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams Saturday for what is expected to be the only competitive congressional race in the largely Republican state.
McAdams easily won the nomination against four challengers with 72 percent of delegates’ votes during the party’s convention in downtown Salt Lake City, and will now face off against two-term GOP incumbent Mia Love. He was the heavy favorite heading in and enjoys the support of the national Democratic campaign arm, which thinks he can aid in the party’s goal of flipping 23 seats to take control of the U.S. House.
As he heads into the general election, McAdams is planning to highlight his status as a moderate and paint Love as a “no-show” who has ignored her constituents, he said.
“I’m going to be reaching out to Republicans, Independents and Democrats to find solutions to the challenges that we face in Utah,” he said. “People know that I’m somebody who shows up.”
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Also on Saturday, two-term Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson received votes from 81 percent of party delegates to secure the Democratic nomination for the Senate race to replace retiring lawmaker Orrin Hatch.
She is expected to face off against former presidential candidate Mitt Romney in November, through Romney must first win a June 26 primary against state lawmaker Mike Kennedy.
After her nomination, Wilson said that those intervening months are an “organizational opportunity” for her campaign to reach out to prospective voters, including Republicans. She is likely to criticize Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, as an out-of-state interloper in Utah.
“I’m actually from this state,” she told roughly 1,000 delegates at Salt Lake City’s downtown convention center.
Wilson faces an uphill battle. Utah voters are overwhelmingly Republican and the state has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1977.
Yet many of the Democrats present expressed cautious optimism about their chances in November, on the heels of surprising recent victories in Pennsylvania, Alabama and other conservative districts. Nationally, Democrats are seizing on the unpopularity of some of President Donald Trump’s politics and hoping to take control of Congress after November.
“There’s a lot of belief that there’s this blue wave thing going around,” said Michael Esplin, 28, a student from suburban Millcreek. “But it’s still Utah.”
The races for the state’s three other U.S. House seats are expected to be safe terrain for Republicans.
On Saturday, Westminster College professor James Singer won the Democratic nomination for the 3rd Congressional District. He’ll face the winner of a Republican primary between Rep. John Curtis and businessman Chris Herrod.
University of Utah official Shireen Ghorbani won the nomination to square off against incumbent Chris Stewart in the 2nd Congressional District.
Businessman Kurt Weiland and social worker Lee Castillo were forced into a primary to decide who will face eight-term Rep. Rob Bishop, after neither reached the 60 percent of delegate votes’ necessary to win the Democratic nomination outright.