While 4th Congressional District Democratic candidate Doug Owens is touting a new Salt Lake Tribune poll that shows him ahead of GOP Rep. Mia Love, the State Republican Party is criticizing Owens for holding a Washington, D.C., fundraiser with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The Tribune/Hinckley Institute of Policy poll shows Owens with 51 percent to Love’s 45 percent in the district, which includes much of Salt Lake County’s and Utah County’s west side areas.
The SurveyUSA polls for the newspaper have historically had Utah Democrats showing better than their election performances.
Still, the new survey should help Owens with his fundraising – as the 4thDistrict has been classified as a swing seat by the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) – meaning some national party money should be coming into the race this fall.
And it is Owens’ fundraising that state GOP chairman James Evans is now complaining about.
“It is hypocrisy” for Owens to act one way in Utah – distancing himself from national Democratic leaders – “and another way back in D.C,” Evans told UtahPolicy on Friday.
Owens would put Pelosi back at the head of the U.S. House if he gets his way, said Evans.
Evans’ biggest concern this election year is Love, who beat Owens by several percentage points in 2014 – her first win in the district redrawn by the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2011 to be Utah’s most competitive U.S. House seat – while still being Republican in nature.
Earlier this week, Owens sent out a press release complaining that Love – the first Black female GOP House member in U.S. history – is one of 35 Republicans that Donald Trump is considering for his vice presidential running mate.
In any case, the new Tribune poll shows that the 4th District may be in play this year.
And while it is unlikely Democrats could pick up enough seats to take control of the 435-member U.S. House in the 2016 elections, Republicans, both locally and nationally, don’t want to see Love fall.
Already the Utah GOP has developed a plan to shore up Love, especially if Trump ends up the official GOP nominee.
Trump has his problems in Utah, finishing third here in the March GOP caucuses.
Evans would love to tie Owens to the D.C. Democratic establishment, while Owens would love to tie Love to Trump, and the fairly dysfunctional Republican national old guard.
UtahPolicy asked Evans if he worries about the Owens/Love race this year.
No, he said.
In 2014 Owens got close to Love because only around one-third of the 4th District’s Utah County Republicans voted, said Evans.
With this being a presidential election year, it’s more likely 50 percent of Utah County Republicans will vote, Evans believes.
And that should easily be enough to ensure a Love victory, he said.
Former 4th District Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson needed more than 60 percent of the independent vote – combined with some GOP votes, as well – to win the seat.
That is the challenge Owens faces this time around.