SALT LAKE CITY — Former Vice President Joe Biden officially joined eight other Democratic presidential candidates already on Utah’s primary election ballot on March 3, 2020, the same Super Tuesday date voters in more than a dozen states will go the polls.
On Tuesday, Scott Howell, a former Utah state Senate minority leader, filed the necessary paperwork to put Biden on the ballot with the lieutenant governor’s office, which oversees elections.
“For Utahns, Joe represents the values of our state, hard work, integrity, honesty and giving back,” Howell said. “I think he’s always been that individual who puts people first, who puts people before politics. For me, I’m looking for a new leader who will represent the moral compass of our community.”
So far, in addition to Biden, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, billionaire Tom Steyer, author Marianne Williamson, and Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California, and Michael Bennet of Colorado are on the Utah ballot.
But there are still another 10 Democrats — including the latest contender in the race, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who’s running TV commercials in Utah — vying to take on the expected Republican nominee, President Donald Trump, in the November 2020 election.
Trump’s paperwork for his place on the Utah primary ballot was filed in mid-November by second lady Karen Pence. During her brief stop in Salt Lake City, the wife of Vice President Mike Pence also held an event for an invited group of Trump supporters at the Utah Capitol.
The deadline for declaring candidacy in the Utah primary is Dec. 2. The state is returning to a presidential primary election after allowing political parties to hold presidential preference votes during their March caucus meetings in 2016.
In the Utah caucus votes, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won among Republicans, coming in far ahead of then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Trump, who went on to win Utah in November 2016, while Democrats gave Sanders a big victory over their party’s eventual nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Howell said Biden knows he’ll have to work to win over voters in Utah’s Democratic primary.
“Bernie ran a terrific campaign,” Howell said of the 2016 race that included massive rallies held by Sanders in Utah before the caucus vote. For Biden, he said winning the Utah primary will be about “campaign strategy and how much effort they put into this.”
Biden held a fundraiser in a Park City home during a quick stop in the state last September, but Howell said he’ll be back before the primary. He declined to be specific about when, but said Utah voters should expect to see Biden campaigning in Utah sometime after the holidays.
“You can expect the vice president to have more of a presence here as time moves on,” Howell said, noting Biden sees Utah as part of his strategy for locking down the nomination early. “What he’s told me is they’re putting in the effort. He wants Utah. I think that’s significant.”
Howell said he doesn’t believe Biden will be hurt in Utah by the questions surrounding his son Hunter’s past dealings in Ukraine that are being raised by Republicans during the impeachment proceedings against Trump currently underway.
“I don’t think so. I think most Americans are able to see the reality. Hunter’s never been accused of a crime, never been accused of doing anything that is a violation of ethics. There were no quid pro quo activities. People are getting fatigued on that,” Howell said, just as they are on the impeachment proceedings.
Neither, Howell said, are “making any traction” with voters in Utah. “We want ethical, strong, moral leaders and everybody should have a fair shake.”