Park City politicos follow Mitt Romney versus Jenny Wilson
September 23, 2018
The top of the ticket on Election Day is an intriguing contest for people in Park City and surrounding Summit County.
The campaign to succeed the retiring Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch pits the GOP candidate, Mitt Romney, against Democrat Jenny Wilson. Romney is a former governor of Massachusetts, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and the leader of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Wilson is a member of the Salt Lake County Council, itself one of the top elected posts in the state. Both of them bring name recognition and high-level government experience to the campaign, and the two have spent months stumping on the range of issues expected to be debated in a Senate contest. Romney and Wilson have made stops in Summit County. But Park City and the wider county are not population centers in the state, and it is unlikely either of the candidates will focus on the area over the upcoming crucial weeks of the campaign. The name recognition and the high-profile nature of a Senate contest are expected to keep Romney and Wilson visible in the area nonetheless as Election Day approaches.
The leaders of the Summit County Democratic Party and the county's Republican Party are watching the Senate campaign. There are no Republicans campaigning for County Courthouse posts, something that could focus more local GOP attention on Statehouse and congressional campaigns.
Brantley Eason, the chair of the Summit County Republican Party, said in an interview Romney's strategy includes stumping in smaller-population counties. He is strong on issues like the national debt, the budget and immigration, Eason said.
"He's not the candidate who's just running ads on TV in Salt Lake and Utah counties," he said.
Eason said he has spoken to the Romney campaign about scheduling an event in Summit County.
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He declined to project the results in Summit County between Romney and Wilson. Democrats have long enjoyed strong showings in Summit County, one of the most reliably Democratic spots in the state. The Democratic candidates in state and federal campaigns, though, are typically routed outside of Summit County as they claim seats in Congress or at the Statehouse.
The chair of the Summit County Democratic Party, Cheryl Butler, sees Wilson as a strong candidate for local voters to consider.
"She's a very appealing candidate. She has a lot of really good experience," Butler said, adding that female politicians have proven popular in Summit County.
Wilson's interest in protecting public lands will be appealing to voters in Summit County, Butler said. She noted Wilson, as a Salt Lake County elected official, supported Park City's efforts to acquire Bonanza Flat in a conservation deal. That support was "classic Jenny Wilson," Butler said.
"Jenny has consistently come out to support public lands in Utah," Butler said, describing that Wilson, as a senator, would "strike an independent tone" to the other members of Utah's congressional delegation and the state Legislature.
Butler predicted Wilson will win Summit County on Election Day. She acknowledged it will be "difficult" for Wilson to capture the Senate seat against a candidate with the name recognition of Romney.
"Jenny's the right person to be doing it," she said about the challenge to Romney.
The Summit County political parties are also involved in the campaign for the 1st Congressional District. The district covers a vast swath of northern Utah, including all of Summit County. The Republican incumbent, Rep. Rob Bishop, is seeking re-election against Democratic challenger Lee Castillo and United Utah Party candidate Eric Eliason.
Bishop is favored in the heavily Republican district. He has traditionally overwhelmed opponents in the district-wide vote, but he has not fared well in Summit County.
Butler said Castillo appeals to Latinos, young people and members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. She predicted Castillo will win Summit County. She conceded Castillo is a newcomer to politics.
Eason said it is difficult to predict the Summit County results in the 1st Congressional District. He noted Bishop's experience as a congressman and the work he has done on public lands.
He hopes Bishop holds a campaign event in Summit County.
"It's crunch time now," Eason said, adding, "You'll definitely see candidates throughout Summit County."