Since 1970, Republican senators have controlled Utah’s representation in Congress. Democratic nominee Jenny Wilson hopes to break that trend and unite political parties in the Beehive State.
Wilson’s childhood was a little unconventional. As the daughter of Ted Wilson, former Salt Lake City mayor, she spent many years attending events and meetings in the community. It was this exposure that sparked her initial interest in public policy.
“I understood how the community worked,” Wilson said. “I look back and feel very lucky to have those experiences. I got to be my dad’s date — his plus one.”
Wilson’s interest in politics took her to Washington D.C., where she worked as press secretary to Rep. Les AuCoin (D-OR) and chief of staff to Rep. Bill Orton (D-UT). She returned to Utah in 2007, where she was the first woman elected to the Salt Lake County Council.
“As the only woman on the council I know, I worked extra hard,” Wilson said.
Wilson said during her first term she felt the need to be the smartest and hardest-working person on the council, but her mentality changed after her first term. “I learned that it is as much about listening and forming relationships,” Wilson said.
Wilson said she is frustrated about a lack of a relationship between political parties in Utah. She said Republican Senate nominee Mitt Romney and his campaign have had little interaction with Wilson since his nomination. Romney also hasn’t acknowledged Wilson’s challenge to a debate on immigration issues.
“This is an incredibly important issue. I’m frustrated as an American and as someone who deals with local policy that we can’t move our county and our state forward,” she said.
Wilson believes Romney has taken the Senate race for granted. Even though he is a former presidential nominee, the people of Utah deserve a civil and open conversation between candidates, she said.
“It would be really easy to maybe change my party affiliation and get embraced by the Republicans I work well with,” Wilson said. “But it’s the principle thing to do to continue fighting for balance in the state and trying to be vocal.”
According to her campaign website, Wilson wants to prioritize her constituents’ voices over lobbyists, and she encourages more transparency around political contributions and special interests.
“We can make our federal government work for us, but we need leaders in Congress willing to push a reform agenda. I’ve done it at the local level, and I will do it in Congress,” she said.
Wilson supports immigration reform, which includes secured borders and a more comprehensive path to citizenship. She also prioritizes quality, affordable healthcare for all citizens. Wilson supports amending and reforming the Affordable Care Act to better fit the nation’s needs.
“I will strongly defend the advances — especially in coverage — that arose from the ACA while striving towards fixes that address spiraling costs,” she said.
Wilson also hopes to find “cooperative solutions” to protect national monuments and resources. She opposes the 2017 tax reform, which she said favors corporations and the wealthy “at the expense of Utah families.” Wilson opposes President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which combats climate change.
Utah Democratic Party Chair Daisy Thomas said she was excited and hopeful about Wilson’s campaign.
“Jenny knows what’s missing from the national conversation,” Thomas said. “She’s not just someone who will look out for her career, but what’s best for Utah families.”
As a mother of two, Wilson said she is most concerned with preserving the quality of life for the next generation. She doesn’t believe a Republican senator can accomplish that.
“I think the Republican party is holding back innovation, creativity and thinking outside the box,” Wilson said.
Salt Lake County Council Chairwoman Aimee Winder Newton commended Wilsons work ethic despite their differences in political ideology.
“I consider her a dear friend even though we disagree,” Newton said. “She is equally invested in the county.”