Can Democratic challengers stop Utah’s four GOP congressmen from going back to Washington?

Utah’s four GOP congressman easily won their primaries this summer.

Editor’s note This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s voter guide for the 2022 midterm elections. You can find all the stories in both English and Spanish here.

Para leer este artículo en español, haz clic aquí.

Every two years, Utahns elect four representatives to govern on their behalf in the U.S. House.

And this year, Utah’s four congressmen are all asking for voters to send them back to Washington. Utah Reps. Blake Moore, Chris Stewart, John Curtis and Burgess Owens each handily won their primaries this summer and are now facing Democratic challengers this November.

Here’s what to know about each of Utah’s four congressional district races:

Utah’s 1st Congressional District

A little over a year and a half ago, Utah Republican Rep. Blake Moore entered Washington, D.C. as a freshman congressman and newcomer to Utah’s political landscape.

In under two years, he’s gone from the slim GOP primary winner to co-leading legislation across the president’s desk — like the Modernizing Access to Our Public Land Act, which requires government bodies to modernize and publish outdoor recreation data on federal lands to show where the public can recreate.

During this election cycle, Moore has raised over $1 million in campaign funds in 2022 alone and has over $500,000 in cash on hand, according to the most recently available FEC reports.

With his first term drawing to a close, Moore said he’s building his expertise and his first reelection campaign feels much different than the first.

“I feel a little more comfortable in my own skin,” he said.

(Utah Democratic Party, The Salt Lake Tribune) Democrat Rick Jones, left, and Republican Rep. Blake Moore, candidates for the 1st Congressional District.

He said there’s limited interaction between the House and Senate, with politics winning the day over being productive in Chambers.

“I wish that policy was driving everything back here, and it’s not,” Moore told The Salt Lake Tribune. “Politics often drives a lot of things and you see that from both sides, and that’s a really frustrating aspect.”

Moore – who won his June primary by 30 points over the next closest candidate – is set to square off against Democratic nominee Rick Jones in November.

Jones is no stranger to Utah politics, though it’s his first time running for a federal seat. He ran twice for the Utah Legislature — once in 2006 and 2018 — both times hoping to unseat Utah House Majority Leader Mike Schultz.

Raised in Michigan, Jones first came to Utah in the 1970s to attend Brigham Young University, shortly after he worked in a Chevrolet factory for two summers near Detroit. After graduating he managed a dairy farm in Weber County for 14 years.

Jones also holds a masters degree in economics from the University of Utah, and he was previously an adjunct professor of economics at Weber State University. More recently, his main business has been teaching piano lessons.

D.C. needs a lessening of partisanship, Jones told The Tribune, saying the central concept of his campaign is common sense.

“Looking at the deeper problem,” Jones said, “I honestly feel like the American people are not so much divided as they are .. they’re not represented.”

The latest poll from the Utah Debate Commission puts Moore comfortably ahead of Jones, as Moore was polling at 62% of the vote compared to Jones’ 32%.

2nd District

Chris Stewart is Utah’s most senior congressman, and after spending the last two years in a Democratic Congress, the five-term representative for District 2 says he sees a lot of work ahead.

“The very soul of our nation seems to be at a crossroads, as neighbors are quicker to fight over a problem than work together toward a solution,” Stewart said in an email. “I want to restore the values that made our nation the greatest force for good in human history: God, family, and country.”

A former U.S. Air Force officer who was raised on a dairy farm in Cache Valley, Stewart is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which oversees U.S. intelligence agencies. The first assignment, he said, puts him in a position to secure money for projects in Utah, “from energy to infrastructure.”

One of his most important accomplishments so far, Stewart said, was his leadership in the House on the bipartisan effort to create a national three-digit suicide hotline. According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there has been an increase in call volume and improvement in answer rates and wait times since the line went live this summer.

(The Salt Lake Tribune) Nick Mitchell, left, and Rep. Chris Stewart, candidates for the 2nd Congressional District.

Stewart is also pushing for the passage of his Fairness for All Act, which would require fair treatment of LGBTQ Americans in housing and employment, but also expand faith-based exemptions to anti-discrimination law. It was inspired by a Utah bill passed in 2015. Both pieces of legislation are supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the proposal, saying it “signals that LGBTQ people are less worthy of protection. It does this by providing religious organizations and service providers with the ability to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity where they are explicitly prohibited under current federal law from discriminating based on other protected characteristics.”

Both Stewart and his Democratic challenger, Nick Mitchell, said if victorious, they would spend much of the upcoming term focusing on workers.

Mitchell, a former University of Utah football player who markets himself as an inventor and scientist, told The Tribune that workers’ rights are important to him because, as a worker himself, his own weren’t always protected.

While working at a trucking depot, a pallet of trucking parts fell on his head and neck. Mitchell said he had previously told his manager he didn’t feel safe working in the situation, but was told to continue working. As a result of the injury, Mitchell said, he underwent four neck surgeries, suffered a heart attack and had three pulmonary embolisms.

“I will always fight for people who are hard-working, good people just trying to make a living in this world, because it’s tough,” Mitchell said.

As a congressman, Mitchell said another one of his priorities would be expanding renewable energy, referencing the possibilities of a U.S. Department of Energy geothermal research lab located 10 miles north of Milford — inside his potential district.

Also running for the seat are Jay McFarland with the United Utah Party and Cassie Easley of the Constitution Party.

According to the most recent FEC filings, McFarland has raised four times what Mitchell has, while Easley, however, who has not raised enough to submit an FEC filing.

3rd District

In Utah’s 3rd District, which spans much of Utah’s coal and oil fields, both major-party candidates are running with a focus on the same issue — energy.

Incumbent John Curtis is on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as well as its subcommittees on health, and communication and technology. The former Provo mayor, a Republican-turned-Democrat-turned-Republican-again, has been in Congress for nearly five years since running in the special election to replace former Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

During that time, he’s formed the Conservative Climate Caucus, which aims to combat climate change with “policies and legislation consistent with conservative values.” Several dozen Republicans have joined, including Curtis’ three Utah colleagues.

“It’s Republicans coming together to talk about how we how we maintain our energy independence, how we have low affordable prices, and at the same time, reduce emissions,” Curtis said. He continued, “I’m very proud of the work that we’ve done there and bringing Republicans to the table and having really thoughtful conversations about how we move forward on not just energy, but climate issues as well.”

Not everyone is satisfied with Curtis’ efforts, though. The League of Conservation Voters has given him a lifetime score of 5%, tying him with Stewart for the lowest rating among congressmen in the state. The lowest score given to legislators is 0%, and the highest is 100%.

(Jeffrey D. Allred | Pool) Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, and Glenn Wright shake hands after debating in 3rd Congressional District debate at KBYU Broadcasting building in Provo on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022.

Democratic challenger Glenn Wright is among those who think Curtis is “not doing enough.”

Wright is on the Summit County Council, and in that role, has also worked on energy issues with the National Association of Counties as a member of the Utah Association of Counties Board. He said the state Democratic Party asked him to run for the seat in March, and that the main issue he’s running on is climate change.

If elected, one of Wright’s climate priorities would be to codify the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency policy that assigned individual states goals for reducing carbon emissions. Under President Donald Trump, the agency repealed the plan, saying it exceeded its statutory authority.

He also supports a carbon fee and dividend program that would collect fees for burning fossil fuels, and return the dividends to the American people. Wright also for a carbon tax on imports from countries “that don’t have good carbon footprint goals.”

Beyond the climate, Wright, who is an Air Force veteran, was frustrated when Curtis voted against the PACT Act, a new law that will improve care access for veterans facing health issues due to exposure to burn pits while serving.

“I think it’s abysmal that anyone in Congress can send our young folks off to war and not take care of them when they come back,” he said.

4th District

No race on the ballot in Utah this November was impacted more by redistricting than Utah’s 4th Congressional District. The seat, which has swapped control between Republicans and Democrats four times in the last five elections, became much more favorable toward Republicans after the GOP-controlled Legislature redrew the boundaries last year.

Republican Burgess Owens is a heavy favorite to win a second term in Congress this year. He is facing off against Democrat Darlene McDonald. Both Owens and McDonald are Black, making this the first Utah congressional race to feature two major party candidates from a racial minority group. The matchup is even more remarkable since Black people make up just 1.5 percent of Utah’s population according to figures from the Census Bureau.

Owens, a frequent guest on conservative cable news programs, is one of former President Donald Trump’s most reliable supporters in Congress. He was one of 139 House Republicans who voted to throw out election results from Pennsylvania following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. During the campaign, Owens has frequently criticized the Biden administration for their policies at the southern U.S. border and blamed them for increased cost due to inflation.

McDonald, who is an author and technology professional, has made access to healthcare and economic issues the centerpiece of her campaign.

Two years ago, Owens defeated Democrat Ben McAdams by 3,765 votes. Just two years earlier, McAdams defeated incumbent Republican Mia Love by just 694 votes.

Because of the Republican-controlled legislature, those razor-thin margins are likely a thing of the past.

Utah’s new congressional district lines moved farther east and south in Utah County to encompass more solidly Republican parts of the state, while moving further south in Salt Lake County, shifting Democrat-heavy areas into other congressional districts.

The end result is a district that went from being a toss-up to a near slam-dunk for Republicans.

The non-partisan Cook Political Report named the redrawn 4th District to its list of the top-25 districts that moved dramatically to either the left or right politically.

Before redistricting, the “Partisan Vote Index” or PVI, a measurement of how Republican or Democratic a district is, for the 4th District was R+7. That suggests a typical Republican candidate would perform seven points better than the national average of the two-party vote share.

After redistricting, the PVI for the 4th District is R+16, a shift of 9 points from just a year ago, making the district the 69th “most Republican” in the nation.

Utah United Party candidate January Walker is also on the ballot in the 4th District. Walker, on her webpage, says she would be the “first representative to build my platform solely around the needs of the people, and not the party.”

Her campaign website also advertises that it is the first campaign to launch a “Political Campaign NFT Fundraiser” — or to raise campaign money from non-fungible tokens.