Final vote counts Tuesday showed that Democrat Ben McAdams did not jump the gun when he declared victory a day earlier over two-term Republican Rep. Mia Love.
He won by 694 votes, or a margin of 50.129 percent to 49.871. That margin of 0.258 was barely outside the 0.25 percent that would have allowed Love to request a recount.
Meanwhile, in the state’s other close-up-to-the-end race, Proposition 4 that seeks to end gerrymandering by creating an independent commission to redraw political boundaries after each Census also won — by a 50.34-49.66 margin.
Those tallies came after county canvasses of votes statewide on Tuesday. A state canvass on Monday at noon will certify final results for the multi-county races.
“Now it’s time to get to work representing the people of Utah in Congress,” McAdams, the mayor of Salt Lake County, said Tuesday. “It’s time to bring people together and move forward.”
Love, the only black female Republican in the House, issued a statement Tuesday simply thanking voters.
“Regardless of how you voted, I want to express my sincere appreciation to you for engaging in the process,” she said. “It is one of the many reasons this is the greatest country on earth. May we take this week to reflect on the countless blessings surrounding our state and country. Happy Thanksgiving.”
She is out of the state for the holiday, and said she plans a news conference Monday to discuss the race. Also, she and McAdams said they have yet to talk after the election, but plan to do so soon.
After the attack-ad riddled campaign finally ended, Gov. Gary Herbert congratulated McAdams — but tweeted that he hopes Utahns “will be able to move beyond this unnecessarily divisive campaign and that all our candidates will hold themselves to a higher level of civility in the future.”
I hope Utahns, particularly those in the 4th district, will be able to move beyond this unnecessarily divisive campaign and that all our candidates will hold themselves to a higher level of civility in the future.— Gov. Gary Herbert (@GovHerbert) November 21, 2018
Like McAdams, Prop 4 supporters were relieved and looking to the future.
“The voice of the people will once again be heard in drawing legislative lines — making sure Utahns choose their representatives and not the other way around. We expect the voice of the people will be respected and honored,” said Better Boundaries co-chairmen Jeff Wright and Ralph Becker.
Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, said the McAdams-Love race "came down to those provisional ballots, the people who showed up on Election Day, registered to vote, and then cast votes largely for Prop 2 [for medicinal marijuana] and Ben McAdams. That is where he gained a lot of ground.”
In part because of the close McAdams-Love race, Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said that in her county, “It was an unprecedented turnout: 81.93 percent turnout for a midterm election.” In comparison, the turnout for the 2010 and 2014 midterms was just 52 percent.
The end of counting votes after two long weeks now allows McAdams to focus on future congressional work — and he talked in interviews and news conferences about that.
He will be the only Democrat in Utah’s congressional delegation — meaning he also will be the only Utahn in the new Democratic majority in the U.S. House. McAdams also is among mavericks who have vowed not to vote for Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi to become the new House speaker.
“First and foremost, I am on Team Utah before anything. I look forward to working with every member of the delegation,” he said.
“Throughout my public service, I have always worked with Republicans — being in the state Legislature and Salt Lake County. I am comfortable reaching across the aisle, as I have done frequently.”
About continuing to oppose Pelosi, he said, “I declared very clearly that I think it’s time for new leadership in Washington. I am following through with what I promised and said during the campaign. ... It is time for new leadership in Washington.”
He mentioned some issues at the top of his agenda.
“I really hope that we can tackle immigration reform, especially coming up with a fix for ‘dreamers,’ ” young people who were brought into the country without papers by their parents, McAdams said.
“Utah families need relief about uncertainty about their health-care coverage, about their costs of health care and access to health care.”
He added, “Our state needs investment in transportation, in our infrastructure that supports the growth and economic development in this district.”
And he said, “One of the first things we’re going to do is hold a town hall meeting for voters to tell me what their priorities are.” McAdams and his supporters had criticized Love for not holding traditional town hall meetings.
With such a small margin of victory, McAdams likely faces another tough election battle in just two years — and possibly a rematch with Love, although other Republicans could be interested in jumping into the fray.
“This election demonstrated that given the right variables, this district is not safe for either party,” Perry said. “I think it’s too early to say whether Mia Love will run again. She’s been in this position once before when she lost to [former Democratic Rep.] Jim Matheson by a similar number of votes. And she came back strong from that.”
The next election in 2020 would be in a presidential year, which could fire up Republicans to vote in bigger numbers. President Donald Trump, however, is not popular in Utah, and has lower approval ratings in the 4th District than statewide.
Also, Prop 2 on medical marijuana, which likely helped McAdams by bringing in younger and nontraditional voters, will not be on the ballot next time.
“I think good public service is the best step toward re-election,” McAdams said. “So my focus is going to be on serving the people of Utah, holding town hall meetings, meeting with constituents, listening to them, and showing them I am working hard to represent them.”
He added, “I think there is too much campaigning and not enough serving. So I plan to spend a lot of time over the next year-plus serving the people."
McAdams said he likely won because “this race was about who was best positioned to serve Utah. ... I will have [Utahns’] interests at heart, not a Washington, D.C., or partisan agenda. I will put Utah first.”
His campaign manager, Andrew Roberts, said no single item tipped the election to McAdams, but said McAdams’ message about bipartisanship was likely key to winning support among the district’s large numbers of unaffiliated voters.
“His message about reaching across the aisle to get things done is what we think ultimately resonated with voters,” he said.
Love’s campaign manager Dave Hansen said earlier that running in a midterm election when President Trump is not popular in Utah hurt Love.
“If Hillary Clinton had won the presidency in 2016, it wouldn’t be this close,” Hansen said, adding that Republicans in the 4th District probably would have been more excited to help Love and fight Clinton.
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Tuesday, “McAdams needed to run a near perfect campaign, focused on hardworking families, to achieve victory in Utah — and he did. Congress needs more voices who will fight for what’s right, not for one political party’s position, to achieve real change for Utahns.”