As an at-large member of the Salt Lake City Council, Jenny Wilson will tell anyone who asks that she has a “pretty good gig going” — though she might then say that her mission to serve the people of Utah in the U.S. Senate is what drives her desire to head to Washington, D.C.
Wilson, a two-term council member in Salt Lake City, is running as a Democrat to replace Sen. Orrin Hatch, who announced his retirement in January. She visited Moab on Monday, April 2, meeting with supporters at Eddie McStiff’s during a four-day trip to southeast Utah. Wilson also had scheduled stops in Monument Valley, Bluff, Castle Dale and Carbon County this week. Her trip to Carbon County will include a visit to their local Democratic Party Convention.
After announcing her candidacy in July 2017, Wilson faced little opposition from the Republican side of the aisle until former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announced he would run as a Republican for Hatch’s seat. In the hunt for her own party’s nomination, Wilson will face Jeff Dransfield of Logan, Mitchell Vice of Salt Lake City, and Larry Livingstone of Bountiful.
During an exclusive interview with The Times-Independent on Monday, Wilson said the impetus for her run began shortly after she was re-elected to her second six-year term in Salt Lake City.
“After the last election I started to explore, and was recruited for this seat,” Wilson said. “There were two of us in Salt Lake that were qualified with county-level seat experience that were ready for this level of politics, Ben McAdams and myself … we both ended on the ballot [in different races] and I think we are both doing our share to bring about the change that is needed in Utah. I think I have a greater purpose and it is Washington, D.C.”
McAdams is running for the 4th Congressional District seat against incumbent Rep. Mia Love this election cycle.
In a pre-interview with her campaign staff, The Times-Independent learned that two of Wilson’s campaign platforms revolve around DACA — or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — and gun control. While Wilson admits that DACA is not a hugely pressing issue in southeast Utah, she took time to expound on her thoughts related to the 2nd Amendment and guns in American society.
“We are entitled to certain rights,” Wilson said. “I think we need to be in a position to protect ourselves from a government gone awry, however, I don’t think that weapons of war need to be in the people’s hands.”
When asked about her specific vision of the future for Grand County voters, Wilson said tourism is a fact of life in the region — and a topic she has her sights set on.
“Grand County is benefitting, and has been for years, from tourism,” Wilson said. “Because of that, we have to get this right. Everybody in the world knows about this area because they have seen photos of Delicate Arch or have heard of the mountain biking. We’re on the map internationally and because of that we have to be smart about maintaining it, but also supporting the community. We have to protect the land that is here and also manage growth and development. The people here locally have to be in the driver seat to figure out solutions to benefit the region long term.”
On the issue of Bears Ears, Wilson said the current status of the monument resulted from both sides of the aisle failing to work together to find solutions.
“I think the [Bears Ears] issue was a legislative failure,” Wilson said. “I think there was a negotiation in the works that would have prevented the designation, but it fell apart and left the federal control of that designation in the hands of one party. President Obama saw an action he could take and he did. If a Ben McAdams or Jenny Wilson had been in Congress, where there was a voice on the other side, I don’t think that negotiation would have failed. I have some concerns over pulling back the size of Bears Ears, but what concerns me more is Grand Staircase-Escalante.
“That monument has been in place since 1996, so it is unsettling to me to see that change. I’m very concerned as well about the overriding of the concerns of the Native American tribes. President Trump’s decision has left open the chance for lawsuits over this and has created division. We need less division and to come together to solve problems.”
Wilson was also very clear in drawing a distinction between her political ideology and that of GOP front-runner Mitt Romney.
“I don’t think there is any issue I have ever flip-flopped on, not one,” Wilson said. “I think voters have seen a lack of clarity from Mr. Romney and, at one time, he was a very liberal Republican. Now he is to the right of President Trump on many issues.
When Romney first expressed interest in this race we all said, ‘great, he is going to hold Trump accountable,’ but now he is not. He is to the right on immigration and he believes that the current tax bill was good public policy. That’s not me. So what I want the voters to know is they can trust me and I will always tell them what I think. They can count on me not to change.”
For more information on Wilson’s campaign, visit wilsonforsenate.com.