Sunday, September 18, 2016

Race of the Day- Utah U.S. Senate

50 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Red State (West)

Outlook: Safe Republican

Utah Democrats will face an uphill battle for some time to come in statewide federal elections, even as the state GOP is very much divided over the Presidential nominee. The Senate race this year is safe for freshman Republican incumbent Mike Lee, but not without him getting past some hurdles. The choices in background and ideology of the two major party could hardly be more stark.

Six years ago, 39 year old attorney and first time candidate Mike Lee ran as a staunch conservative and challenged longtime incumbent Republican Robert Bennett. The end result at the state GOP convention is that Bennett did not have enough support to even make it to a state primary, and thus, his political career came to a difficult end. Some establishment Republicans went for another candidate in the primary field, but Lee, with strong Tea Party backing narrowly won that primary, and of coursed cruised in November.

In the Senate, Lee has been widely acclaimed for his intellect but has found some frustration in accomplishing his goals, despite the GOP being in the majority. He has worked closely with other freshmen Republicans though, including Ted Cruz of Texas, one of the few Senators willing to call Cruz a friend. Considering the path that Lee took to the Senate, and the somewhat divisive nature of his political positioning, many in the GOP establishment were thought of as potential nomination opponents in 2016. A son of Mitt Romney and others were mentioned, but none ultimately ran. Democrats also took a pass in trying to put up a candidate with electoral experience. The calculation had been made that Lee would be impossible to beat, and he pretty much wrapped up a second term at the filing deadline.

While the Mormon dominated Utah Republican Party is very conservative (albeit with significant pockets of anti-Trump sentiment), Utah Democrats are very divided themselves between those who might be Mormon and could conceivably have been elected in past cycles, and the increasingly left-wing activist wing of the party, which very much preferred Bernie Sanders for President over Hillary Clinton.

While it was basically a foregone conclusion that Lee would win reelection, Democrats thought they had a reasonably credible candidate to put up against him in the person of Jonathan Swinton, a marriage and family therapist. Swinton might have made the mistake though by positioning himself as somewhat conservative on social issues, such as abortion, and thinking it would serve him well in the state, he called for an investigation of Planned Parenthood. This did not sit well with liberals in the state party, and Swinton failed to win the official nomination at the party convention. Opposing him on the ballot in the June primary, would be Misty Snow, a very liberal 35 year old grocery store worker, who identified with the Sanders wing of the party.

Some history would be made though, as Snow became the first ever transgender nominee for U.S. Senate. That very same day, another transgender woman, who just also happened to have named herself "Misty", and who shared Snow's liberal politics, won a Democrat primary for a Congressional seat in Colorado.

This is not much of an actual contest for Lee in regards to his battle against Snow. (It is fun to think of all the professions where "Misty Snow" would make a cool name.) In recent months, the Senator has made more news for his stands against Donald Trump, including at the GOP convention, when he angrily tried in vain to allow a roll-call vote on the rules. This was mostly done out of loyalty to Ted Cruz, but Lee has taken some principled stands against Trump and his ideas beyond that. To this point, Lee has refused to indicate that he will support Trump at the ballot box.

I may not like the way that Lee came to his first Senate nomination and believe his rigid views and those who share them may be part of the dysfunction on Capitol Hill, but he is very substantive person, and based on his principle stands against Trump and bigotry, and for conservatism and freedom, my respect for him has definitely grown.

Lee campaign link:

Senate races predicted thus far:
 8 D (6 Safe, 1 Likely, 1 Leans)
23 R (9 Safe, 5 Likely, 5 Leans, 4 Tossup)

Overall predicted thus far: 44 D, 53 R