Jenny Wilson pushes on to the end of a tough Senate race with Mitt Romney
Oct 16, 2018 | 4039 views | 0 0 comments | 310 310 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jenny Wilson canvasses a Moab neighborhood.
Jenny Wilson canvasses a Moab neighborhood.
It’s an early October Saturday morning in Moab as Jenny Wilson supporters gather in the park, exchanging conversation and ideas on how to approach the day in which they will spend canvassing Grand County neighborhoods, campaigning for Wilson and fellow Democrats James Singer and Tim Glenn.

Singer is running for Congress and Glenn is running for the U.S. House of Representatives, both on the Democratic ticket. Their supporters hang around for about a half hour before Wilson, Singer, and Glenn arrive.

It’s been a hectic past couple of weeks in the Utah Senate race for the right to take over for retiring senator Orrin Hatch, especially for Wilson who recently went toe to toe with her Senate opponent and former Massachusetts Governor and GOP presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, in a fiery debate.

It’s an uphill battle from the word go, and it’s something Wilson has not backed down from. Romney’s Republican challenger in the primary election likened his battle with the one time presidential candidate to a David and Goliath type struggle.

Wilson and her supporters never say the word defeat the entire morning. It’s something that is on everybody’s mind, but nobody will say the word.

There is an obstinate optimism, where the issues and establishment candidates are something that can’t hang on forever and that at some point the issues will outweigh party support in a traditionally red state.

Wilson is quick to point out that she is in Utah today campaigning, unlike Mitt Romney who was in Tuba City, AZ that weekend rather than in the state he hopes to represent.

In weeks prior, Wilson’s campaign has accused Romney of being an “absent candidate.” It’s something the Romney campaign has animatedly denied, pointing out several reasons why they believe Romney has been active in Utah and is a present candidate.

Wilson points to the fact that she is from Utah and has represented the state she hopes to serve, but also points out that it is not about smearing the other candidate or showing their faults. It’s about pursuing a platform that is both honest and something that attempts to approach the issues Wilson feels are facing the state.

“I’m a local elected up in Salt Lake County,” Wilson says when asked what she has learned on the campaign trail, taking a few minutes to interview before heading out to knock on voters doors. “So, we just discussed some issues briefly related to domestic violence, sexual assault, opioid crisis. So I was always kind of tuned in to what was going on.

“My background includes some time working in advocacy. I worked for an organization called ‘Voices for Utah’s Children Hope.’ I’ve worked pretty extensively in my county role on mental health substance abuse, started an opioid task force in Salt Lake County.

“So what has been interesting is to know a lot about people and their needs, kind of some of the more challenging concerns in our communities and then go out to areas like I am in right now in Grand County, San Juan County and sort of see how things are different in a community that is smaller.

“I don’t know that it, frankly, is all that different in a way. It’s just that in a small town, everybody knows each other, so you have this layer of two things, I think.

“One is support. Where everybody sort of looks after each other, but you also have a certain level of defending things that need to change. That’s what I’ve noticed.”

“We know that in Utah that a lot of the communities don’t have a lot of the resources they need,” Wilson said. “I look at Salt Lake County, and we need more resources. We have a large population there, over a million.

“It’s not as resources are as deep as they need to be to service that large area. Here it has been a challenge to rule out good hospital systems, specialty care, people have to travel long distances for things, roads matter, so I don’t know.

“There’s a long list of things that I think the federal government, along with the states, can do to deliver essential services to our constituents in the state.”

Wilson and her campaign coordinator have selected moderate Democrats to knock on their doors today. The people are chosen based on their recent voter turnout and Wilson feels she can really help an undecided voter come to a decision by being present and talking with them at their residence.

Wilson is turned away a few times by obstacles such as nobody being home on a Saturday morning at Moab residences where locals are often busy enjoying the outdoors.

Another obstacle Wilson faces is fences and dogs, but before long, one person answers the door after several selected voters were either not home, or were not answering their doors. One man answers the door and is surprised to find that a Senate candidate is at his front door.

“Oh wow,” he says when Wilson informs him of who she is and what she is doing. “You definitely have my support if you are the one running against Romney.”

Another man talks with Wilson in his driveway, touching on the subject of the second amendment nervously. Wilson informs him that she does not want to take anyones guns away and that she felt she needed to take a stance on the issue.

The man seems to understand that, but the discussion quickly becomes tense when the man asks Wilson if she supported former President Obama. When she says, “I did,” the conversation quickly ends.

As Wilson and her staff walk to the next house, unfazed and undaunted by the political tension that underlines a division and change that is happening in Utah and the nation, they continue on. One of the many interactions that have made up a long road to the Senate that is now coming to an end.

It speaks to what Wilson said at the debate between her and Romney on Oct. 9 when she said people are frustrated and it’s time to break up the “old boys club” that is the United States Senate.

Wilson hasn’t been shy in this election race as she has taken firm stances on several subjects, something that is not always the easiest thing to do when you are a female candidate, but she has at times taken the gloves off.

Especially on subjects like the planned 40 million dollar Orrin Hatch center, where Wilson feels like Utah has other issues that need to be addressed with those public funds.

“I think we are really at this tipping point and change is happening rapidly,” Wilson said. “Change in the sense of growth and also social change.

“I think people’s eyes are being opened to the world in a different way due to technology; that has happened in the past couple of decades. I think people now are sort of struggling with ‘how will a changing economy affect my life?’

“Each of our counties are very diverse and have a different sort of safety net. The counties that are doing really well have been able to bring in jobs in addition to a tourism economy, or the community is located along Interstate 15 do better because there is so much going on.”

“Some of the more isolated counties, I really feel like we have to drive jobs, jobs, jobs into those communities for them to thrive,” Wilson said. “I think we are at a tipping point.

“There are definitely concerns in Carbon County, Emery County, other places about the decline in coal mining, and we see it back to the social services needs in those areas. I just think that there is a lot that the federal government can do, and I actually think many at the state level haven’t supported our communities at the level they can.”

Wilson believes counties like Grand and San Juan are the places where 100 jobs can make a significant difference for the residents of those isolated economies. She says this as the canvassing comes to an end and it is now time to move on with her busy day.

She believes she will win this race, despite the odds. It’s something that speaks to the difficulty of the job she was faced with, but also to her personal preservation.

But today, she is surrounded by support and optimism, a staple of her campaign.
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