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Utah Rep. Ben McAdams endorses Mike Bloomberg for president

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg campaigns at Impact Hub in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020.
Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg campaigns at Impact Hub in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Rep. Ben McAdams endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg on Friday.

McAdams, Utah’s only Democrat in Congress, called the billionaire former New York City mayor a “doer” who puts people ahead of politics. He said Bloomberg offers the best shot to restore fiscal responsibility in Washington and address critical issues like access to quality health care.

“Mike is someone who will listen, do what’s right, and work across party lines to get things done,” McAdams said in a statement. “As mayor, he brought people from all corners of the world together to solve big problems, and I am confident he will do the same as president.”

Bloomberg, who made a campaign stop in Salt Lake City two weeks ago and has been running ads in Utah since he got in the presidential race in November, said he’s honored to have the support of a former fellow mayor who understands the importance of getting things done.

“I’m looking forward to working with him to bring people together and rebuild America,” he said.

Bloomberg fared better in the state than any other Democrat matched up against President Donald Trump in a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll released this week. The survey showed that 32% of registered voters would vote for Bloomberg and 45% for the Republican president. Another 13% weren’t sure and the remainder either would vote for someone else or not vote.

During his campaign stop in Salt Lake City Jan. 18, Bloomberg held McAdams up as an example of the success Democrats can have in a Republican-dominated state like Utah, telling a downtown crowd that Utahns “have been ignored by national Democrats for too long.”

He said the party “shouldn’t be writing off any state, no matter how red people think it is. And after all, Democrats have shown they can win here, especially with Donald Trump in the White House.”

In an interview with the Deseret News, Bloomberg said he intended to help McAdams, who won the 4th Congressional District seat held for two terms by a Republican Mia Love by less than 700 votes and is seen this election as one of the nation’s most vulnerable Democrats in Congress.

”We’re going to try to help him. We’ve got a staff here full time,” Bloomberg said, that includes McAdams’ campaign manager Andrew Roberts, who also is serving as senior adviser to the presidential candidate’s campaign in Utah.

Asked for specifics about aid to McAdams, Bloomberg said: “You give him some money and you go out there and talk him up when you talk yourself up, or when my staff is talking me up. You can plant stories. You do normal campaign stuff,” including assisting in getting out the vote in the 4th District.

Bloomberg, who is self-funding his campaign, gave $10 million to the House Majority PAC to defend vulnerable Democratic members against paid Republican attacks on their support for the impeachment of Trump. McAdams voted for impeachment.

McAdams already has been targeted by Trump’s reelection campaign and other national Republican groups.

“Utahns deserve better than a corrupt congressman who will sell his endorsement to the highest bidder,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair said in a statement Friday.

McAdams faces an intra-party challenge from Daniel Beckstrand, who describes himself as a progressive running from the left, as well as a list of Republican candidates that includes state Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan; former Utah GOP communications adviser Kathleen Anderson; former KSL Newsradio host Jay Mcfarland; former NFL player Burgess Owens; and nurse practitioner Chris Biesinger.

Endorsing Bloomberg, who ran for New York City mayor both as a Republican and as an independent, is relatively low risk for McAdams, said Chris Karpowitz, co-director of the Brigham Young University Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy.

McAdams’ endorsement “reinforces his efforts to position himself as a moderate who cares about fiscal issues and who is willing to work across party lines,” Karpowitz said, noting that Bloomberg, too, is seen as “an outsider candidate, so in that sense, endorsing him also sends the message that McAdams is looking for something different from the Democratic Party.”

In the March 2016 party-run caucuses, Utah Democrats overwhelmingly backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders over the party’s eventual nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This year, Utah is holding a presidential primary election on Super Tuesday, March 3.

While some Utah Democrats remain strongly attached to more progressive candidates like Sanders, Karpowitz said he doubts they are “going to be able to mount a large challenge to McAdams from the left. The worry would be if those voters stay home in November, but there’s still plenty of time for McAdams to court them.”

The bottom line, the political science professor said, is that “as long as more progressive voters in his district don’t abandon him, McAdams benefits from choices that emphasize his pragmatism and his moderation. In the 4th District, moderate Republicans and independents are the key to victory.”