Congressman Rob Bishop, the Republican incumbent in Utah's 1st Congressional District, has a "whirlwind" of a Democrat as his opponent on Election Day in Donna McAleer.
The description comes from Jim Dabakis, the chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, who sees the campaign between Bishop and McAleer as being a competitive one even in a heavily Republican congressional district. Bishop, a five-term congressman, has easily beaten his Democratic opponents over the years.
"I think it's uphill for Rob Bishop. I think he has no idea," Dabakis said on Thursday, two days after McAleer secured the Democratic nomination by dispatching her primary election opponent, South Ogden entrepreneur and business consultant Ryan Combe.
Dabakis said Bishop's legislative history is questionable, claiming the incumbent opposes reforms in health care, student loans and Social Security. The incumbent lacks vision, Dabakis said, predicting that McAleer will deliver "one of the great surprises" on Election Day.
"She is a whirlwind . . . She has more energy than the Energizer Bunny," he said. "I'm saying bring on Rob Bishop. He's in for the fight of his life."
McAleer is from Pinebrook and has a background as an Army officer, management consultant and nonprofit executive. She more than doubled the vote total of Combe in Tuesday's primary, winning 67.2 percent of the votes to Combe's 32.8 percent.
Her numbers were especially impressive in her home county, where she won 90.8 percent. She was expected to win Summit County easily, but taking 90-plus percent of the vote in a contested campaign is an extraordinary feat.
McAleer also performed well in parts of the district seen as Combe territory. She won in each county within the 1st Congressional District except in Rich County, where just 18 votes were cast in the Democratic congressional primary.
The results outside of Summit County will be especially encouraging for the McAleer campaign given she must make significant political inroads in the other counties to pose a challenge to Bishop. The incumbent hails from the northern reaches of the district and his support is centered in the population centers in that area.
In 2010, the most recent congressional election, Bishop trounced his Democratic opponent by more than 45 percentage points. Bishop won just more than 69 percent of the vote to Democrat Morgan Bowen's just less than 24 percent. Bishop took Summit County that year, but the results were much closer than the district-wide numbers.
In an interview on Thursday, McAleer said she has confidence as she turns her focus to November. She said her platform of education, access to public lands and economic growth resonates with voters.
Bishop, she said, has "put partisan politics over patriotism and people. We're going to change that."
McAleer said she hopes her campaign receives support from state and national Democrats. She said the state Democratic Party could provide opportunities to address voters and chances for fundraising. The national Democratic apparatus could provide financial support and media possibilities, she said.
"To break through, we build bridges," McAleer said.
The results of the other federal-level primaries: