Nov. 21, 2018 — It appears the final undecided House race has now come to at least an unofficial end, and the result is a bit surprising.
Some, including me, were predicting the culminating vote tabulation trend in Utah’s UT-4 District would favor incumbent US Rep. Mia Love (R-Saratoga Springs), based upon her overwhelming performance from the late votes in the 4th District’s two rural counties and the more populous Utah County. But the substantial number of remaining ballots in Salt Lake County proved decisive in that Democratic nominee Ben McAdams over-performed, which flipped the race back in his direction as the count concluded.
On election night, it appeared that Rep. Love had been defeated when she fell almost 9,000 votes behind as Salt Lake County was being tabulated. But she came roaring back when the outlying counties’ votes were counted. As the late votes were finally being recorded, Love rebounded to forge a 1,615 district-wide vote edge. Her advantageous situation was precarious, however, as thousands of same-day registration, absentee, and provisional votes still remained in Salt Lake County.
Yesterday, those latter votes were counted while Love found herself slightly under-performing within the last group of Utah County votes. She garnered only 66 percent in the final Utah County vote pool, below the 74% she was posting in previous totals within this entity.
According to local reports, this meant that Democrat McAdams, the Salt Lake County mayor, could overtake the congresswoman should he score approximately 59 percent from the remaining votes. This, he did, and then some, as McAdams erased MLove’s previous lead and ended the counting day with a 739-vote advantage.
McAdam’s surge was largely due to approximately 9,000 same-day registrants, many of whom were coming to the polls to vote for the medical marijuana ballot proposal that passed the state 53-47 percent but was overwhelmingly approved in Salt Lake County. It is evident that a strong majority of these voters supported McAdams.
The spread was enough for the Democrat to declare victory Monday night, and Utah election officials are supporting McAdams’ vote analysis because they don’t believe enough uncounted ballots remain to change the current outcome. Democrats will end the 2018 election with 234 seats in the House, a gain of 39 from their previous total of 195. Republicans will return to the new Congress with 201 members.
Mia Love first ran for the House in 2012, challenging Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Salt Lake City) who had chosen to run in the 4th District as his best hope from a series of heavily Republican reconfigured districts. With Utah favorite son Mitt Romney capturing the 4th District over President Obama with a 67-30 percent split, Love could not convert enough of the Romney coalition and lost to Rep. Matheson, 49-48 percent.
Two years later, with the congressman retiring, she captured the seat in a 51-46 percent victory over attorney Doug Owens (D), the son of former US Rep. Wayne Owens (D-Salt Lake City). She was re-elected in 2016 with a 54-41 percent margin, again over Owens.
Rep. Love had never completely secured herself in this district, though, and President Trump is not overly popular in Utah (he won only a 45-27-21 percent victory over Hillary Clinton and Independent Evan McMullen; his 4th District victory percentage was only 39) like he is in other deep red states.
Therefore, susceptible to an anti-Trump attack in the Salt Lake City suburbs, drawing a proven opponent in Salt Lake County Mayor McAdams, publicly fighting a campaign finance legal problem, and never fully expanding her district base, Love appears to have become the final Republican casualty of the 2018 midterm election.