Gonzales

Rating Change: Democratic Challenger Puts Utah Seat in Play

Rep. Mia Love facing competitive race with Salt Lake County mayor’s entry

Utah Rep. Mia Love faces a competitive re-election contest next year. (Tom Williams/Roll Call File Photo)

It’s not hard to see Democratic takeover opportunities in districts where Hillary Clinton prevailed or President Donald Trump won narrowly last fall, but Democrats have expanded the map with at least a couple of recruits who should make Republicans work to defend some deeper red territory next year.

Former Kansas state Rep. Paul Davis, for example, announced his candidacy in August, giving Democrats a credible candidate in the Sunflower State’s 2nd District, which Trump carried by 18 points, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections. Davis, a former state House minority leader, carried the district in his 2014 gubernatorial bid, and when he entered the congressional race for retiring Rep. Lynn Jenkins’ open seat, we changed the rating from Likely Republican to Leans Republican.

On Wednesday, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams announced his challenge to GOP Rep. Mia Love in Utah’s 4th District. A significant chunk of the district has already voted for McAdams for mayor. Plus, while Trump carried this district in 2016, he did so with just 39 percent of the vote. Clinton garnered a meager 32 percent, while independent candidate Evan McMullin collected votes from those who weren’t satisfied with their major-party options.

We’re changing the Inside Elections rating of the 4th District race from Solid Republican to Leans Republican.

Love lost a close race to Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson in 2012. Two years later, she won a close race for the open seat against Democrat Doug Owens when Matheson retired. The congresswoman won a rematch with Owens by a wider margin last fall.

McAdams, a former state senator, was elected mayor in 2012 and currently represents 85 percent of the 4th District. His allies believe his established image with voters will help him weather the GOP attacks when they come. But McAdams will have to prove that his appeal and off-beat campaigns translate to a federal race.

This is the 49th Republican-held House seat in play thus far this cycle, compared to just 14 seats that Democrats currently hold. Democrats need to gain 24 seats for a majority.

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