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Republican Utah lawmaker Dan Hemmert drops out of congressional race

Senate majority whip had hoped to unseat state’s only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams

Sen. Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, speaks at a Recruit Romney press conference in the Capitol rotunda in Salt Lake City on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017.
Sen. Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, speaks at a Recruit Romney press conference in the Capitol rotunda in Salt Lake City on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017.
Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah State Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert, a Republican from Orem, dropped out of the race Monday for the seat held by the state’s only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams.

“I didn’t appreciate the effect this would have on my business,” said Hemmert, owner of the Red Hanger Cleaners chain. “I’ve been checked out for six months and that’s not sustainable going forward, and the transition plan we had in place to replace me hasn’t played out well.”

He was the only Republican candidate in the race to date to qualify for the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” program aimed at helping competitive candidates win seats in key congressional districts around the country.

“I think we raised more money in four months than any non-incumbent has ever raised for a U.S. House seat over an entire primary election cycle. So no, it wasn’t because of lack of fundraiser or lack of support. The support was amazing,” the 42-year-old said.

After announcing a run in August, he reported raising more than $240,000 as of Sept. 30.

There are at least five Republican candidates still in the race: former Utah GOP communications adviser Kathleen Anderson; former KSL Newsradio host Jay Mcfarland; family nurse practitioner Chris Biesinger; former NFL player Burgess Owens; and state Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, who is expected to formally announce next month.

Hemmert said he is not yet endorsing a candidate. He said he will run again for a second term in the Utah Senate.

McAdams is considered one of the nation’s most vulnerable Democratic congressional candidates and has already been targeted by President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign as well as several conservative groups that have been running TV commercials against McAdams’ vote to begin then impeachment inquiry in the House.

Democratic National Congressional Committee spokeswoman Brooke Goren said in a statement that Hemmert “was handpicked by Washington Republicans to run in Utah’s 4th Congressional District, and his decision to drop out of the race underscores just how difficult Rep. Ben McAdams will be to unseat in November.”

Goren said that given McAdams’ “record of putting people over party and laser focus on tackling the issues most important to Utah families, it’s no wonder no credible opponent wants to run against him.”

McAdams won the seat in 2018 over two-term GOP Rep. Mia Love by less than 700 votes. The 4th District includes portions of Salt Lake and Utah counties, along with parts of Juab and Sanpete counties.