The headline of the top story in Wednesday’s online edition of The Salt Lake Tribune read, “Republican John Curtis easily beats Democrat Kathie Allen, even in Salt Lake County.”
I don’t think anyone is surprised that Curtis, a Republican, won in the most conservative district in the state, or even that he won by a 30 percentage point margin.
What was interesting was how quickly Dr. Kathie Allen, Curtis’s main opponent, sunk. Shortly after it was obvious she had lost the campaign, Allen took to Twitter and told Utah’s 3rd District what she really thought of it.
“Curtis is Mormon and Republican. I am neither. That really seems to be the only thing Utah County cares about, just as I was warned.”
She later apologized for the tweet.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox responded, “Wow. #StayClassy.”
A prominent Utah Democratic Party activist Curtis Haring responded to Allen’s toxic tweet on Facebook with a dose of political reality.
“Dr. Allen (and all Democrats, for that matter), stop being angry about what the electorate *is*. This is why we lose. It is called a representative democracy for a reason. You can keep banging your head against a wall and saying ‘woe is me, why are they so stupid?’ or you can say ‘where are areas we can win, give our message a toehold, and start to change peoples minds?’
“This isn’t about the Dems putting up more or less progressive candidates, it is about the Dems putting up candidates that match a community’s general values while attempting to bring about core Democratic principals [sic.] such as social justice and equality. Remember, you can’t change anything unless you win.”
It’s a poignant reminder: To win, Utah Democrats need to appeal to voters, many of whom search in vain for a token Democrat to support. As a purist Democrat, unwilling to moderate her liberal viewpoints, Allen was never a serious contender. In this one-party state, Democrats keep missing their chance to matter.
Across the nation, though, Republicans didn’t fair as well. Democrats turned at least 13 seats in Virginia’s House of Delegates. Democrats also won two state governor seats, in Virginia and New Jersey.
The cards are stacked against Republicans for 2018. Traditionally, the party controlling the White House loses seats in the midterms. And heavy Republican losses are consistent with the general Trump exhaustion and frustration that Congress isn’t getting anything done. If Republicans are smart, they’ll take this halftime underdog status and come back stronger and ready to win, by passing tax reform, insurance reform and maybe even immigration reform.
Utah voters did show signs of discontent; four incumbent mayors in Salt Lake County are heading toward defeat, including 24-year veteran Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan. It is still uncertain, though, whether Utah Democrats will be able to capitalize on Republican fatigue.
We can expect good things from Mayor Curtis in Washington. Now that he has secured the vote of the heavily Republican district, despite his previous status as a Utah County Democrat, Curtis can now relax his rhetoric and prove who he is. His own words bode well: “I pledge to serve the underrepresented. That means spending more time in rural Utah. It means if you’re not white, Mormon and male, I am still here for you.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s men will keep pushing through conservative judicial nominations and directing foreign policy as the career generals see fit. Hail to the Chief-in-name-only.
There is one especially hopeful aspect of this week’s election: Utah may be seeing a precursor to the Year of the Woman, at least in Salt Lake County. Out of seven contested mayoral races with at least one male and female candidate, women were ahead in three races the morning after the election. That is a 43 percent success rate for female candidates, and three female mayors to combat the 2016 abysmal female/male ratio of 19 percent.
Even better, out of 15 contested city council races with at least one male and one female candidate, women were ahead in nine races and tied in two. That’s a success rate of at least 60 percent in races where women ran.
Here’s to a 2018 Year of the Woman.
Michelle Quist Mumford is an editorial writer for the Salt Lake Tribune who takes no pleasure in criticizing a fellow sister activist and looks forward to seeing more from Dr. Kathie Allen.