Only black GOP woman in Congress running tight race in Trump-wary Utah district

Republican U.S. Rep. Mia Love speaks during an interview in Murray, Utah, Sept. 17, 2018. Love is battling Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams for Utah's 4th Congressional District. | Associated Press file photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The first black female Republican in Congress is facing a tough challenge from a well-known Democratic mayor in a largely suburban Utah district where many say they are wary of President Donald Trump.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, left, greets a homeowner during door knocking in Mill Creek, Utah, Aug. 16, 2018 | Associated Press file photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

U.S. Rep. Mia Love has sought to create some distance from the president while challenger Ben McAdams criticizes her record and pitches himself as a moderate.

The tight race also has a potential down-ballot wild card: A hotly contested medical-marijuana proposal that could bring out new voters.

Love, considered a rising star in the GOP, is fighting to keep her seat in a race targeted by national Democrats hoping to regain control of the House. She contends that she stands up to Trump on issues like immigration and trade.

“I wasn’t sent to Washington to walk in lockstep behind the president, or just be there and fight everything,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press, pointing to the federal tax overhaul as a GOP accomplishment.

McAdams, meanwhile, is seeking to burnish his image as a family man planted firmly on the political middle ground who would not support California Rep. Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker if the Democrats gain control. “I don’t like President Trump, but that’s not going to stop me from working with him,” he told The AP.

In another year, a Democrat would have little chance of making serious headway against a GOP incumbent in a Utah district where Republicans hold a 3-to-1 registration margin.

This year, it’s a dead heat.

Republican U.S. Rep. Mia Love speaks during an interview in Murray, Utah, Sept. 17, 2018. | Associated Press file photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

Utah voters, though generally conservative, have long been wary of Trump’s brash style and comments about women and immigrants. While Republican politicians elsewhere have fallen after running afoul of the president, Utah GOP voters picked onetime critic Mitt Romney as Senate nominee in a landslide.

Love’s district includes suburbs of blue Salt Lake City, where anti-Trump sentiment runs particularly high.

Aaron Wood of Orem, who works with people with disabilities and is concerned about possible cuts to programs like Social Security, said he’s leaning toward voting for McAdams because he feels like Love is too closely aligned with Trump.

“It’s a problem and not a good direction for Utah,” he said.

The candidates exchanged sharp words during a debate on Monday, with McAdams accusing Love of supporting cuts to Social Security and environmental regulations while failing to be available at town halls.

“I feel like you’ve changed, honestly, you went to Washington and you’ve changed,” he said.

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams in Mill Creek, Utah, Aug. 16, 2018 | Associated Press file photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

Love says he is distorting her record. She said she supports reforms to Social Security for younger people as well as compromise environmental legislation and is available to voters in small groups or telephone town halls.

“We have to let people know honesty still means something, integrity still means something,” she said.

The race could be affected by factors that have little to do directly with either candidate.

Voters will also be deciding on a medical-marijuana ballot proposal opposed by the highly influential Mormon church. The faith now backs a compromise to legalize it with strict regulations.

The issue could bring more people to the polls, said Damon Cann, a political scientist at Utah State University. New voters can register on Election Day for the first time this year.

McAdams says he’ll vote for the medical marijuana ballot proposal, while Love said she supports the compromise but wouldn’t say if she’ll vote for it.

While that issue could be a bump for McAdams, the ballot also holds a potential lift for Love with Romney’s high-profile Senate run. The record there is mixed, though: His presidential candidacy didn’t lift her to victory over a well-known Democrat in 2012.

Love, a daughter of Haitian immigrants, became the country’s first black female Republican in the U.S. House in 2014. She was clear when asked whether her race runs counter to a national narrative about more minority women running for office, mostly Democrats: “Diversity is great for them until you actually have an independent thought.”

McAdams’ six years as mayor included going undercover as a homeless person pushing back against a tax breaks for a once-planned Facebook data center.

Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • Not_So_Much October 18, 2018 at 7:10 am

    I’m FOR the President more each day. It’s ‘the establishment’ who is trying to undermine what the President is doing. Send a true conservative to the senate — Tim Aalders for the US senate. Feel good about your vote.

    • KR567 October 19, 2018 at 2:32 am

      I will feel good about my vote. because I will vote for who I want.. not who you want !

  • dogmatic October 18, 2018 at 8:45 am

    I’m a big Trump and Love supporter I don’t like McAdams because he doesn’t like Trump and he doesn’t say why but wants to work with him. (He wants to join the resistance and obstruct ).
    All liberals are socialists, if you like socialism than move to Venezuela.

    • iceplant October 18, 2018 at 10:49 am

      “All liberals are socialists, if you like socialism than move to Venezuela.”

      What a load. Another one of you “just move there” types. The US is more socialist than you’ll ever grasp. Police, fire departments, SOCIAL security, public parks, national parks, libraries, gov’t assistance programs, Medicare, etc. etc.
      The list is almost endless. All right here in the United States. How ya like them apples?

  • Utahguns October 18, 2018 at 9:24 am

    Ben McAdams continued to support and advocate illegal immigration in our country and maintain Salt Lake City as a sanctuary city.

    • iceplant October 18, 2018 at 10:52 am

      Nothing wrong with offering sanctuary.

      • 42214 October 18, 2018 at 12:17 pm

        Open up “your doors” in the house you own outright and create a little sanctuary. You can start with the housekeeper I fired when I learned she was illegal.

        • iceplant October 18, 2018 at 2:03 pm

          Yeah, right. You didn’t fire any housekeeper. Nice try.

          • 42214 October 18, 2018 at 4:43 pm

            Actually I really did 2 years ago and make a practice of not hiring illegals. You are a fool to assume you know it all, but then, all know it alls are fools. Oh, by the way, how is your sanctuary house coming?

      • Utahguns October 18, 2018 at 2:35 pm

        Simply an idiotic and dangerous comment, but, that the way you turncoats think…

        When libs start offering their own homes to illegals and you establish a track record of safety, security and peaceful cohabitation, then, I may think about it.

        • Utahguns October 18, 2018 at 3:34 pm


          • Redbud October 19, 2018 at 3:08 am

            Utah guns, I couldn’t have said it better myself! They really need to put their money where their mouth is. They either need to put up, or shut up! It’s a good thing for their sake I am not the President, because if I was, I would stop at absolutely nothing to ban sanctuary cities. I would make it a crime, and ANY government official or citizen found supporting sanctuary cities would be expelled from the country permanently. I’d teach them a lesson they’d never forgot!

        • iceplant October 19, 2018 at 7:48 am

          Turncoats. HA!
          You keep telling yourself that, tough guy.

  • 42214 October 18, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    Iceplant, how many sanctuary guests have you taken into that house you own outright? I could probably find a few gardeners or construction workers looking for a hand out and a little socialism.

    • iceplant October 19, 2018 at 7:51 am

      Plenty of your kind who do gardening and construction work already.
      This IS Utah after all. Where anyone who isn’t white or LDS are treated like second-class citizens. Be proud.

      • 42214 October 19, 2018 at 9:06 pm

        5,000 Hondurans trying to get to USA looking for a little Iceplant socialism and free stuff. Here’s your chance to step up and win the Nobel Peace Prize. Sponsor a few and house them in that big house you own outright. Be a hero.

  • jaltair October 18, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    GO MIA!!

  • Mike P October 19, 2018 at 11:34 am

    What does being black have to do with this article? Why does EVERYTIME something happens to black person or EVERYTIME a black person does something it has to be pointed out that their black? The first black this, the first black that. First black “woman” does this, first black “women” does that? Who really cares? Your just adding to the divide.

    • Redbud October 21, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      Mike P, did you know that Mia Love is black?

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