In the latest sign that Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams poses a serious threat to Rep. Mia Love in 2018, the Cook Political Report has shifted their assessment of the race toward the Democrat for the second time.
Cook’s prognostication moved the race another step toward McAdams, rating next year’s CD-4 contest as “Lean Republican.” When McAdams was rumored to be jumping in the race, the rating shifted from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican.” The latest shift is just one step away from “Toss Up.”
In her first run for Congress in 2012, Love underperformed GOP nominee Mitt Romney by 19 points and lost by less than 1,000 votes. In 2016, she took 54 percent while Trump took just 39 percent in the district. Although Love has worked hard to change her initial reputation as a spotlight seeker, she still hasn’t put this overwhelmingly GOP seat away. And, Trump’s unpopularity in Utah could keep Democrats in the game.
In a major coup for Democrats, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams is running, and Democrats are encouraged by early polling data. McAdams, 42, won the top county office in 2012 and 2016 and already represents 85 percent of UT-04 (although UT-04 is much more Republican than the county). McAdams has built a unique brand as a wonky, nerdy Mormon Democrat, raised over $1 million in past races and cultivated relationships with Republican mayors.
McAdams, an attorney, plans to focus on local needs like transportation and infrastructure funding and paint Love as an inaccessible obstructionist who has sided with the Tea Party over Salt Lake’s business community on issues like reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. He also contends he’ll be harder to pigeonhole as “Nancy Pelosi’s dream” than Love’s previous opponents because voters already know him as a pragmatist.
However, McAdams’s most press-worthy episode of 2017 could cut both ways. In March, McAdams’s consideration of several possible suburban sites for new homeless shelters drew intense ire at town hall meetings. Later, it was revealed McAdams had been moved to act on the issue after posing as a homeless person and living in a particularly distressed shelter for three days and two nights. Love is still the favorite, but this is shaping up to be a competitive race.
Love’s campaign fired back at the rating shift, saying it had no bearing on what was actually happening in Utah. Campaign manager Dave Hansen pulled no punches in a text message to UtahPolicy.com.
“Fourth district voters could care less about what Washington DC fortune tellers say about the race. They will reelect Mia Love because she represents their views and is fighting for their issues.”