(Trent Nelson | Tribune File Photo) Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams unveils his proposed 2015 budget in Salt Lake City, on Tuesday October 28, 2014.
Ben McAdams may be fueling up his orange bus for a 2,000-mile drive to Washington, D.C.
The two-term Salt Lake County mayor and former state senator is reportedly weighing a Democratic run in 2018 against two-term Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, for the state’s 4th Congressional District.
“A lot of voters are encouraging me to run,” McAdams told The Salt Lake Tribune on Saturday. “It is something I’m seriously considering.
McAdams said it is a critical time in the nation’s history, and there’s a need for “people in Washington who can work across party lines.”
While McAdams lives in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District — currently represented by Republican Chris Stewart — state law allows congressional candidates to run for any seat.
Asked about his District 2 residency in Salt Lake City’s Sugar House neighborhood, McAdams noted he represents roughly 85 percent of the 4th District’s voters as mayor of Salt Lake County.
“These are my constituents,” he said. “I’d love to fight for the issues of the district.”
Rooting for a Love-versus-McAdams race is state Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, who described the Democratic county mayor as a “politician of the people.”
A challenge by the someone like McAdams, Dabakis said, could lure Love out of isolation in Washington and make for a “heck” of a campaign.
“Mia Love has spent her entire time in Congress locked off in a bunker somewhere,” Dabakis said. “She‘s never had a serious town hall meeting. She just seems like she’s insecure about facing her constituents.”
Dabakis said he is sometimes irritated by McAdams’ moderate approach, and he assumes Republican members of government are irritated for the same reason.
But Utah’s all-GOP congressional delegation has shown a reluctance to work with Democratic colleagues, Dabakis said, and both Utah and the nation require leaders who can exist in the political center.
“We need one voice of rationality in Washington,” Dabakis said. “We need one that is not going to follow [President] Donald J. Trump off whatever cliff he jumps off.”
Jake Parkinson, Salt Lake County GOP chairman, was critical of McAdams’ image as a moderate, saying the mayor is significantly to the left of the 4th District’s mostly Republican voters.
“When you look at his record, it‘s not the record of a conservative — it’s not the record of a moderate, even,” Parkinson said. “I don’t think he stands a chance. He’s done some very progressive things that Utah voters don’t like.”
Parkinson pointed to McAdams’ involvement in the Mountain Accord and the expansion of his mayoral office. He said McAdams would have a difficult time justifying his record to voters in the district, which also includes parts of Juab, Utah and Sanpete counties.
Utah’s 4th Congressional District was created after the 2010 census, with Democrat Jim Matheson winning the seat in 2012 against Love. Matheson retired the following election cycle, leading to back-to-back wins by Love against Democrat Doug Owens in 2014 and 2016.
Results from the 2016 contest showed Love retaining the seat by a margin of more than 12 percentage points.
Dave Hansen, who ran Love’s campaigns in 2014 and 2016, said that Love and McAdams are friendly toward each other. He declined to comment on the potential of McAdams challenging Love for her congressional seat.
“Let‘s wait and see if he actually does it before we get talking about it,” Hansen said. “I’m not going to comment on just speculation.”
McAdams said he doesn’t have a timetable for making a decision, but is “talking to my family and others in the community.”