Utah Democrats are disappointed yet encouraged by election results — ‘the fight isn’t over’

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The 2022 Election Night Party is held at the Sheraton Salt Lake City Hotel. Democrats were disappointed yet encouraged by the election results. (Megan Brugger)

Independent Evan McMullin conceded to incumbent Senator Mike Lee for the Utah Senate race.

Utah democrats opted against fielding a candidate for the U.S. Senate and instead endorsed McMullin in hopes of defeating Lee.

The Democrats possessed a slim majority in Washington, D.C. with both the House of Representatives and the Senate, so both chambers of Congress were up for grabs in the 2022 midterms. Democrats were expected to lose one in this election cycle, with Republicans only needing five seats to take control of the House.

Utah was expected to reelect Republicans, which held true tonight.

Utah voters cast their ballots in elections for the U.S. Senate and House districts. On the state level, voters cast their ballots for treasurer, senate districts, house districts and school board districts. On the county level, residents voted for council districts, district attorney, auditor, clerk and sheriff. Additionally, residents voted for local school boards and judicial retention.

The voter registration deadline for the midterm election was Oct. 28, but voters could register to vote at an early voting location or a polling location on Election Day if they brought two forms of identification. The polls closed at 8 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.

At the time of publication, voting numbers were still coming in.

In Utah District 1, Republican Blake Moore led the House race, followed by Democrat Rick Jones.

In Utah District 2, Republican Chris Stewart led, followed by Democrat Nick Mitchell.

In Utah District 3, Republican John Curtis led, followed by Democrat Glenn Wright.

In Utah District 4, Republican Burgess Owens led, followed by Democrat Darlene McDonald.

For the State Legislature, Republican State Senate incumbent candidates Scott Sandall, Ann Millner, Jerry Stevenson and J. Stuart Adams won, along with Democratic candidate Jennifer Plumb. Republican State House candidates Joel Ferry, incumbent Michael Petersen and incumbent Casey Snider won.

Republican incumbent Marlo Oaks won State Treasurer and Republican incumbent Jennie Earl, Joseph Kerry and LeAnn Wood won State Board of Education.

Ben Peck, the executive director of the Salt Lake County Democratic Party, was proud of the Democratic Party, although disappointed in some results. He and his team knocked on over 20,000 doors, made more than 80,000 phone calls and sent over 600,000 texts.

Peck felt good about the direction of the results at the time of publication, especially in regard to the county races.

“I’m really happy with the way the Salt Lake County results turned out — we got a lot of really close House races as a county party,” Peck said.

Peck continued to describe the importance of local politics.

“People talk a lot about particular national races — especially here in Utah — that it doesn’t seem like Democrats have a chance,” Peck said. “I really want to make it clearer that on these local races that have a ton of impact are decided by just a few votes … Just a couple of people can make a huge difference.”

For example, Suzanne Harrison, who ran for an at-large seat on the Salt Lake County Council is a medical doctor who felt the ordinary citizen was not being heard. She decided to run when she realized her state representative was not answering requests for information and was unopposed. That year she lost by just three votes.

Her parents, John and Carol Lee Hawkins, also want people to recognize how much their voice matters.

“If you ever think your vote doesn’t count, it does,” Carol Lee Hawkins said.

Stuart Hepworth, the coordinated director of the Salt Lake County Democratic Party, was overall pleased with the outcomes of the election, saying the Democratic Party won their “must-wins.”

“We weren’t expecting any of the congressional races to be competitive, and they weren’t. The state legislature gerrymandered them pretty badly last year and it looks like we might come out of that losing only one or two seats which is really good,” Hepworth said.

Hepworth continued that although McMullin lost, he “put on a good showing” and seemed confident in the Democrats winning the county council and clerk positions.

“There are some races we probably will lose that we were hoping we would win, but we still have reduced the Republican majority,” he said.

Things also seemed to look positive at the national level for the Democratic Party, according to Hepworth.

“People were coming in today expecting the Republicans would take the Senate — that they’d win a 20-seat House majority, but Democrats are probably going to hold the Senate and maybe even pick up a seat or two. The House is a toss-up. A lot of this comes down to young voters coming out and speaking with their votes,” Hepworth said.

Hepworth was not discouraged by the night’s results.

“The Democrats are standing up for everyone the Republican bullies are punching down against, and we’re going to keep doing that. That fight isn’t over at the county, state or national level,” he said.

Sheraton Salt Lake City Hotel held the Utah Democratic Party 2022 Election Night Party, where candidates, elected officials, volunteers and supporters met to watch the midterm election race.

Candidates, elected officials, volunteers and supporters gather to watch live updates on the election. Democrats were disappointed yet encouraged by the election results. (Megan Brugger)

One of those candidates, Darlene McDonald, running for U.S. House District No. 4, took the time to encourage youth to “get involved and make the change they want to see.”

“We have voter apathy, where too many people believe their vote doesn’t matter, but it absolutely does. Do not believe people who tell you your vote doesn’t matter. Be a voter, envision the world you want for yourself and make that happen,” McDonald said.

She encouraged citizens to educate themselves on U.S. history, civic engagement and how the government works.

“Stand up for something. We stand up for clean water, clean air, civil rights and human rights for the LGBTQ community. We stand up for racial and social injustice and for our immigrant population — for what is right in this country … If we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything,” McDonald said.

Democratic candidate Darlene McDonald is proud to be a Democrat, and encourages those in attendance to “stand up for something.” McDonald, at the time of publication, was losing the U.S. House District No. 4 race to Burgess Owens. (Megan Brugger)

Leader of the Utah House Democrats Representative Brian King was disappointed in the election results but remains encouraged nonetheless.

Specifically, King vocalized his encouragement for BYU College Democrats.

“Out of numbers we were looking for votes in Utah County, the biggest, bluest section of Utah County was the Y campus,” King said. He continued, “It’s wonderful that we have thoughtful people that are willing to buck the culture.”

King remains inspired by BYU students who are willing to stand up and say, “Hey, it’s the Democratic Party that is more aligned with my personal values and the values of really moral and ethical people.”

Salt Lake City resident Zoreh Farhang, supports the Democratic party and voted because she believes “what they are doing is for the average Joe.”

She was disappointed in some results, saying those elected brought on shame.

“As long as this country runs with lies, nothing will be changed,” she said.

Farhang encouraged people to investigate and to not listen to information blindly.

“You can sit on your computer and listen to all the parts, but then you need to figure out what is right, what is wrong, what are lies and what is true,” Farhang said.

Salt Lake County sheriff Rosie Rivera is the first female sheriff in the state of Utah and, in 2017, was the only Latina sheriff in the nation. Rivera oversees the largest jail in Utah, the largest court security and is the CEO of the Unified Police Department.

There are new programs Rivera is looking to bring on, including alternatives to incarceration and hiring and retaining law enforcement.

On being the first female sheriff, Rivera hopes to be a role model.

“It’s a step for women to know that we’re in a male-dominated field, but we can do the job and we can be leaders as well,” she said.

The room sponsors at the watch party included Noah Mitchell, Darlene McDonald, Representative Sandra Hollins, Fatima Dirie, Elevate Strategies, House Dem Caucus and Alliance for a Better Utah.

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