Donna McAleer, a Democrat from Pinebrook, won the party's nomination in the 1st Congressional District contest on Saturday, propelling her onto the November ballot in a rematch with the Republican incumbent, Rep. Rob Bishop.
McAleer defeated Peter Clemens, a North Ogden physician, for the nomination during the state Democratic Party convention at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. She won the nomination in a second round of voting by convention delegates.
McAleer captured 66.3 percent of the vote in the second round to the 33.6 percent tallied by Clemens. She also won a first round vote, 58.9 percent to 40.1 percent, nearly securing the nomination in the initial vote.
"We have a great opportunity to fight for all citizens of Utah, and we must unite right here, right now, and bring a change to Washington," she told the convention crowd.
McAleer sharply criticized Bishop, charging the incumbent "works to hijack our public lands and gift wrap them to his oil and mining industry backers."
"Who does the government work for, the people or Rob Bishop? I say it's the people," she also said.
McAleer charged Bishop supported shutdowns of the federal government, costing $30 million to the economy in the state and furloughing 40,000 people.
"He voted to shut down the government, something that hit this state like a sledgehammer," McAleer said.
The win at the convention allows McAleer to focus her efforts on Election Day in November. Had neither of the two Democrats won the nomination on Saturday, they would have competed in a June primary election. A primary would have forced them to spend an extensive amount of time, as well as campaign funds, attempting to win the party's nomination. McAleer can raise money for Election Day and target Bishop without first having to win a primary. Clemens said after the convention votes he will support McAleer in November.
"I'm thrilled, I'm relieved and I'm focused. And we're going to take Bishop out," McAleer told reporters after securing the nomination.
It will be the second consecutive contest in the 1st Congressional District pitting McAleer against Bishop. The incumbent routed McAleer in 2012, winning a little more than 71 percent of the vote. McAleer won Summit County on Election Day, but her home county accounts for a small portion of the voters in the district. McAleer will need to make significant progress outside Summit County to be competitive on Election Day in November. Bishop beat her by wide margins in the other counties in 2012 on his way to the landslide victory.
McAleer said the shutdown of the federal government makes Bishop vulnerable this year. She said she will support working families and added that her campaign will stress issues like health care, the economy and wilderness in Utah.
In her comments to reporters, McAleer said her campaign will reach out to independent voters and those who are not otherwise affiliated with a political party. She criticized the government shutdowns while speaking to reporters when asked about Bishop's vulnerabilities.
"He voted for sequester not once but twice. Those were across-the-board cuts to all federal agencies. He furloughed more than 40,000 federal workers in this state with the government shutdown," she said. "Utah has the sixth largest percentage of federal workers in the country. These votes do not support Utahns. They do not support working families."
She added: "And, oh, by the way, we're paying him to be on the floor to vote, and he's got one of the highest absenteeism rates in Congress. So I think he's vulnerable in a lot of different ways."