Bob Bernick’s notebook: Why McAdams probably won’t run against Love in 2018

The idea of a Mia Love/Ben McAdams 4th Congressional District race next year is fascinating to me.

It has all kinds of political twists and turns and what-ifs.

I can see why McAdams – a successful Democratic Salt Lake County mayor – is seriously looking at it.

I can see why Love, the first African-American female Republican in the U.S. House EVER, is worried about it.

In the end, however, I don’t think McAdams does it.


Because so far his political career has been spotless – no defeats.

And even though he ran (and won) a state Senate race as a moderate/conservative Democrat, and ran (and won) a Salt Lake County-wide race as a moderate/conservative Democrat, McAdams has not been “labeled” or “painted” as a Democrat.

A run for Congress – and certainly serving as a Democrat in the U.S. House – would do so.

And in very, very Republican Utah that can be a label of political death.

Yes, former U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson survived as a Democrat in Utah. He won seven races in three different geographic districts as a Democrat in Utah.

But it wasn’t easy, especially those early races and his re-election in the 4th District were bloody and hard.

If McAdams beat Love, he would be assured of harder, bloody races in re-election – every two years.

He would be in the minority in the U.S. House (at least in 2019 and for several more terms to come).

With SB54 now, and Count My Vote coming, McAdams wouldn’t get the luxury of the Utah GOP delegates nominating some right-wing nut job that would make McAdams look good to mainstream Republican voters.

Most likely he would get – election after election – well-funded mainstream conservative challengers – his political nightmare.

If he won next year, at best he’d look forward to difficult races for a job that takes him away from his young family for little political power with a lot of downsides.

The job McAdams would really like is being governor.

But no Democrat has won that job since 1980, when the then-popular Democrat Scott M. Matheson (Jim’s father) won re-election by not that large of a margin against an unknown and under-funded GOP challenger.

If McAdams – with his good reputation now – gets involved in a muddy, ultra-negative campaign in the 4th District next year, he can basically kiss goodbye his chance of running a successful gubernatorial campaign in 2020.

In fact, perhaps one reason McAdams would even consider a 2018 race against Love is that Jim Matheson may be looking to run for governor in the open 2020 race.

And the Utah Democratic Party could little afford a contested governor’s nomination in 2020 between its two established stars. (There aren’t that many of those in Utah.)

Following that theory, McAdams could run for the House in 2018. And if he loses, he could run for re-election to county mayor in 2020 (with Matheson running for governor).

And then in 2022 – after redistricting by perhaps a bipartisan commission (that petition is now out for citizen signature gathering) – McAdams could be in very good shape to win a more-Democratic U.S. House seat.

Ohhh, the political wheels within wheels.

In any case, I say McAdams stays put.

Keeps his partisan powder dry in 2018.

At 42, McAdams has time to wait.

I’m guessing he’ll bypass Love.