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Devin Thorpe: Evan McMullin is a hero, but not in the way you may think

Three-way split gives a Democrat like Kael Weston a chance to win the Senate race.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kael Weston (D), speaks during the 2nd Congressional District debate between J. Robert Latham (L), Chris Stewart (R) and Kael Weston (D), at KSL Studio in Salt Lake City, on Monday, October 19, 2020

Utah Democrats can’t thank Evan McMullin enough. His joining the race for the U.S. Senate seat held by Mike Lee has created a window of opportunity that Republicans in the Utah Legislature worked hard to prevent with congressional redistricting. Evan has given Utahns a chance to send a Democrat to Washington.

Smart minds agree that the new congressional districts approved by the Utah Legislature — with no Democratic votes — and signed by Gov. Spencer Cox create four safely Republican districts in the state. This means that for the next decade, Utah will likely have no Democrats serving in the U.S. House of Representatives.

No Democrat has won a statewide election since Jan Graham, the only woman to ever win a statewide race in Utah, was elected Attorney General in 1996.

The conventional wisdom would be correct except for the miraculous appearance of what his team described to me as “center-right” candidate Evan McMullin. By splitting Utah’s massive conservative block into two roughly equal parts, moderate Never Trumpers and right wing Trumpists, the game has changed.

No polling has been made public, and the election is still 11 months away, so a lot can happen, but this race looks at first glance like a pie sliced into equal thirds. Given that it is at least theoretically possible for a candidate to win this race with 34 percent of the vote, things look interesting.

When you recall that now President Joe Biden won 38% of the vote in Utah in 2020, suddenly this three-way race looks like one in which Democrats can compete. The key will be for the party to nominate the best possible candidate.

While a few candidates have already come forward, none have the deep experience required to raise money and organize a serious grassroots campaign. The party needs to draft a candidate with the bona fides to compete head-to-head with the two conservatives the nominee will face.

Kael Weston is such a candidate. Running against Rep. Chris Stewart in Utah’s 2nd District in 2020, Weston garnered 37% of the vote while he put 8,000 miles on his old pickup, repeatedly visiting every corner of the vast, largely rural district. This year he’s travelled the state participating in redistricting committee meetings in almost every corner of the state.

Drafting a strong candidate and backing them enthusiastically is not just partisan politics. It is about issues that we care about, including women’s rights, social justice, reversing climate change, ending the pandemic, and strengthening our economy while ending poverty, especially for children.

Saddle up Democrats. The best opportunity we’ll have this decade to send one of our own to Washington to represent Utah is in the U.S. Senate race for the seat now held by Mike Lee. Thanks to Evan McMullin.

(Courtesy Photo) Democrat Devin Thorpe has driven an electric car around the 3rd Congressional District as he campaigns, and sees climate change as a top issue.

Devin Thorpe ran for Congress in 2020 in Utah as a Democrat; previously, he was a regular Forbes contributor and author of six books.

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