‘The Rundown’: Why Utah’s 4th congressional district won’t be a toss-up in 2022

All four of Utah’s GOP House members look likely to win re-election next year

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Good morning Utah and TGIF! Thanks for reading “The Rundown”.

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Swing seat no more?

After a decade of having one of the most hotly contested congressional seats in the nation, Utah may be left on the sidelines.

The Cook Political Report released their first ranking of “House incumbents most at risk” for the 2022 midterm elections. All four Utah Republicans running for re-election are rated as “No or minimal risk.”

In 2020, freshman Rep. Burgess Owens narrowly edged out Democrat Ben McAdams by 3,765 votes. Redistricting should make his seat more Republican next year and give him a more comfortable advantage as he runs for re-election.

Utah’s 4th District switched partisan hands 4 times in 5 elections between 2012 and 2020. Democrats held the seat for 4 years while Republicans had it the other 6. Only former Rep. Mia Love served more than one term.

Elections guru David Wasserman notes UT-04 voted for Mitt Romney by 37 points in 2012, but for Donald Trump by just 6 points in 2016 and 9 points in 2020. The seat is over the target population for the seat by about 65,000 people. Legislators could easily shift more Republicans into that district to shore up Owens without impacting the GOP advantage in the other three districts much. He suggests parts of Democrat-heavy Salt Lake County, which voted for Joe Biden by 11 points, could be moved into Rep. Blake Moore’s seat, which went for Trump by 33 points, or Rep. John Curtis’ seat, which Trump won by 25 points.

Here’s what you need to know for Friday morning

💉 “To the unvaccinated, our patience is wearing thin.” President Joe Biden announced new vaccine mandates for federal workers and contractors. He also said his administration would implement a rule requiring businesses with more than 100 employees to require vaccinations or testing for workers. [NYT]

  • Biden also announced the fine for air travelers refusing to wear a mask would double to as much as $3000. [CBS News]

  • Utah lawmakers were highly critical of the president’s move to combat COVID. [Tribune]

  • Los Angeles school officials voted to require the coronavirus vaccine for students 12 and up. [Reuters]

  • Several Republican governors threatened to sue the Biden administration to stop the vaccine mandates. [WaPo]

  • Republicans explode with anger after Biden’s announcement. [Fox News]

  • Some Republican lawmakers are urging businesses to “openly rebel” against the new vaccine mandate. [Insider]

  • One Fox News guest called Biden a “rotting bag of oatmeal” following the speech. [CNN]

🦠 A Utah doctor is warning that the refusal to wear masks or get vaccinated increases COVID infection rates among children, which impacts the rest of those families adversely. [Tribune]

🚨 Two days before the January 6 Capitol riot, hundreds of law enforcement officials were on a conference call to discuss the possibility that former President Donald Trump’s supporters might turn violent. [Politico]

🏛 Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall pulled back on supporting a new overflow homeless shelter in the Ballpark neighborhood, saying the burden to shelter more homeless people should not fall on her city alone. [Tribune]

⚖️ The Justice Department sued Texas over its new restrictive abortion law. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the ban is “clearly unconstitutional under long-standing Supreme Court precedent.” [WaPo]

  • Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said the court’s refusal to block the Texas abortion law was “very, very wrong” in an interview. [NBC News]

✈️ Airlines are warning the surge of COVID-19 cases from the delta variant is hampering an expected rebound in air travel. [WSJ]

📈 Weekly jobless claims hit an 18-month low on Thursday. Initial unemployment claims were the lowest since mid-March of 2020. [Reuters]

📰 The Tribune’s Robert Gehrke wonders if the U.S. could withstand another tragic event like 9/11. [Tribune]

Utah Politics podcast

On this week’s show, my guest is Tom Nichols, author and contributing writer for The Atlantic.

In his new book, Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assult from within on Modern Democracy, Nichols argues nations around the globe are sliding toward authoritarianism because technology and boredom is causing the middle class to not care about their fellow citizens.

Nichols also is not a fan of Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who he says is too smart to make many of the arguments he does.

Give it a listen here.

A lesser-known story of 9/11

If you’re looking for something a little different to watch on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I’d like to suggest “Come from Away” on Apple+.

The Broadway musical tells the true story of 7,000 air passengers from all over the world who were stranded in the small town of Gander in Newfoundland after American airspace was closed on 9/11.

I saw the stage version when it came through Salt Lake City a few years ago, and it was folksy, charming, and full of hope. The staging is a marvel. The songs are catchy and inspiring. Many of the actors play multiple roles, and they shift scenes effortlessly, sometimes by just rearranging some chairs onstage.

The Apple+ version is a filmed version of an onstage performance featuring many of the original cast.

Friday morning’s Utah news roundup

Salt Lake City

  • EPA leads testing of Fairmont Park pond after possible mercury detection, officials say there’s still no believed public health risk. [Tribune]


  • Utah leaders encourage acts of service for the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Here’s how to volunteer. [Tribune]

  • Donald Trump called the family of a Utah Marine killed in Afghanistan. What did he say? [Deseret News]

  • Flooded Utah towns going without federal relief. [Tribune]


  • The number of new COVID-19 cases in Utah surges to nearly 2,200. [Tribune]

  • What happens when teens want the COVID-19 vaccine and parents say no? [Deseret News]


  • Utah lawmakers criticize Biden’s new vaccine mandate. [Tribune]


  • How Salt Lake mayor’s school mask order is getting ‘99.8% compliance’ — without policing. [Deseret News]

In the opinion pages

  • Amy J. Hawkins: Proposed overflow shelter not good for the homeless or the Ballpark neighborhood. [Tribune]

  • Ellen Brady: Women’s freedoms are threatened by home-grown extremism. [Tribune]

  • Ted Arnoldus: This climate plan would clean Utah’s air, too. [Tribune]

— The Tribune’s Jordan Miller contributed to this report.