Paul Van Dam & Lisa Rutherford: Democrats should stand by their own U.S. Senate candidate

Evan McMullin would be an improvement over Mike Lee, but Kael Weston is a true Democrat.

(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

This opinion piece is written by a life-long Democrat and former Utah Attorney General, Paul Van Dam, and an independent, Lisa Rutherford. We feel compelled to speak out about the controversy in Utah’s Democratic Party regarding who will be their candidate to run against Republican Sen. Mike Lee in the November election.

This challenging situation is forcing Utah Democrats into positions that don’t seem good for the party – forcing them to stand behind a man who doesn’t really hold their values.

As an independent, you would think that I, Lisa, would support Evan McMullin. But I know Kael Weston to be not only a qualified but an admirable candidate. It is not that I don’t like McMullin, but I feel he leans more Republican in his positions than I feel comfortable with. Kael has a background that is strong enough to run against Mike Lee and hold his own. I’ve watched him in debates and he’s a man who can express his positions well and strongly.

As a life-long Democrat, I, Paul, know what it’s like to run as a Democrat in this one-party state. It’s tough. But, as a Democrat, I won not only my race as Salt Lake County District Attorney but also as Utah’s Attorney General. I recognize a candidate who is worthy of our party’s support. Kael Weston is that man. It’s even more difficult to get people willing to run on the Democratic ticket in this one-party state than it was when I was in politics. For the Democrats to turn their backs on any qualified candidate willing to run does not say good things about encouraging future potential candidates.

We have respect for the Utah Democrats who support Evan McMullin as the party’s candidate, we just don’t agree with them. It shows that Democrats can’t even field their own candidate and that does not look good for the party.

Democrats who feel that they should ignore their own Democratic candidate in favor of an independent candidate do so, apparently, because they feel that McMullin has a better chance of winning against Lee. But is turning your back on your own candidate worth it, and let’s face it, McMullin probably won’t win anyway. Utah’s Republicans are in love with Lee and his tea party credentials and will elect him no matter what McMullin has to say, which is not much different than what Lee says. If, amazingly, McMullin does win, he’s said he won’t join either the Democratic or Republican caucus, which will deny him any real power other than having a vote in the Senate.

On the other hand, at least Weston brings another set of ideas to the campaign to put before citizens. It may not win him the election, but it will at least get those ideas out and force voters to hear the other side’s positions.

Yes, McMullin is anti-Trump and supported Joe Biden in the 2020 election. But that does not make him a Democrat at heart. Are Democrats giving up on their own party and what it stands for? We would very much like to see Lee defeated. We are running out of time. The Democrats must unite as never before to begin to build and consolidate their numbers before the Republicans run this great country into the ground.

Take a good look at Kael Weston. You’ll find him to be a key to launching an outstanding beginning to a powerful, country-saving comeback, and the nucleus of a resurgence of USA as a true powerhouse on our endangered planet.

Lisa Rutherford

Lisa Rutherford is a writer in southern Utah for The Spectrum & Daily News and the Southern Utah Independent.

Paul Van Dam

Paul Van Dam was attorney general of Utah from 1989 to 1993.

Both serve as advisors to Conserve Southwest Utah.