For most of her life, Jane Hosking has voted Republican. She supported Mitt Romney during his unsuccessful run for the White House in 2012 and cried after John McCain lost the presidential election to Barack Obama in 2008.
But that changed in 2016 with the election of President Donald Trump. Now, the 71-year-old Murray resident says she’ll be voting Democratic for the foreseeable future.
“I knew that we were headed for a disaster and that the Republican Party had basically lost its marbles,” Hosking said. “I will continue to vote straight Democrat until we come to our senses again.”
Hosking lives in Utah’s 4th Congressional District, and she’s part of the makeshift coalition of independent, liberal and disaffected conservative voters who pushed Democratic Rep.-elect Ben McAdams to a narrow victory over Republican incumbent Rep. Mia Love.
In voting for McAdams, Hosking said she was less concerned with her particular representative in Congress than she was about the larger power dynamics in Washington. The only way to turn things around, she said, is to put Democrats in a position to check Trump and the “appalling” voter-suppression efforts of Republican leaders.
“They seemed like equally decent candidates,” Hosking said of Love and McAdams. “But that’s not my concern right now.”
In interviews with multiple 4th District voters who supported McAdams — some of whom declined to speak on the record, citing a fear of ostracization or reprisal — Trump was repeatedly named as one of the factors, or the primary factor, behind their decision.
Todd Hubbard, an unaffiliated voter who lives in Utah County, said he voted for Love in 2016 but switched his support to the Democratic candidate — McAdams — out of frustration with Washington’s “broken” government process.
“It’s all stuck in the hands of one person, and we all know who that is,” Hubbard said. “This was kind of an anti-vote, more than it was a vote for Ben McAdams.”
South Jordan resident Martin van Blankenstein said that while Trump factored into his decision to support McAdams, the president was not his primary focus.
“I’m a Republican,” he said. “Sadly, I’m a little bit ashamed of the president. He claims to be a Republican; I think he’s a self-server.”
Van Blankenstein voted for Love in the past and said she was a refreshing change to Utah’s white-male-dominated politics. But Love effectively disappeared after her election, he said, doing little in D.C. and ignoring her constituents back home.
“It was like she was a ghost representative,” he said. “Is Ben McAdams any better? I don’t know, but I think it’s worth a shot.”
During the campaign, McAdams often raised the issue of Love declining to hold traditional town halls with constituents. And at a news conference declaring victory in the district, he said a town hall was at the top of his to-do list in an apparent dig at his opponent.
Love has pushed back on that characterization, saying during her only debate with McAdams that she held 85 town halls. But most of those events were live, remote broadcasts or small group meetings with constituents.
Asked about Love’s claim of 85 meetings, van Blankenstein said that whether or not those happened, he wasn’t aware of them and didn’t feel like the congresswoman was engaging with the district.
“There needs to be some change in the Republican Party,” he said. “They need to be more aware of the people they represent, and it seems to me they focus a lot on big business.”
He also said he was disappointed by the negative campaigning on both sides of the Love-McAdams contest, describing it as “kind of sleazy.” His support for McAdams, he said, is far from a lock if the congressman-elect seeks another term in 2020.
“If he communicates with his constituency, that would be the big one,” van Blankenstein said. “I would vote for the candidate I think is best, whether they’re Democrat or Republican.”
A lack of access to Love and her office staff was also cited by Ryan Gaines, a Republican who recently moved to Salt Lake City but was registered to vote in Lehi for the most recent election.
“You couldn’t talk to her,” he said. “I’ve tried to call before to give my opinion on certain subjects. It just never got through, and I didn’t find that to be very appropriate for an elected representative.”
Gaines said he voted for Love in the past but was disappointed in her reluctance to speak out on issues like Trump’s proposed border wall and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
“The tendency toward nationalism and just overall hate that I see for a lot of people from members of my own party doesn’t make me want to vote for Republicans at all,” he said.
Andy Nash, a Republican and delegate to the party’s Salt Lake County convention, said he largely agreed with Love on policy but disagreed with her campaigning and rhetorical style.
“I heard her talk at the convention, and she’s just very hyperpartisan,” Nash said. “It rubbed me the wrong way.”
Since the election, Nash said, he was disappointed with Love’s concession news conference, in which she described McAdams as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Nash said it reminded him of how Love criticized McAdams for his handling of the proposed Olympia Hills development, a high-density housing project that McAdams vetoed as county mayor after a public backlash.
“His handling of that particular controversy was measured and appropriate,” Nash said. “[Love] will talk about things that are important to me, but then she’ll just crank up the rhetoric.”
Love has not said whether she will challenge McAdams to a rematch for the seat in 2020. Asked during her concession news conference, she responded, “We’ll see.”
She added that her defeat has left her “unleashed" and “untethered” to more freely state her opinion on state and national politics.
“I am unshackled and I can say exactly what is on my mind,” she said.
Since that appearance, The Salt Lake Tribune requested a comment from Love on U.S. support for the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen. Love’s office staff said the congresswoman was unavailable for comment.