At the Utah State Democratic Party's 2014 election night viewing party, one TV screen in a corner aired a live feed of Mia Love making her victory speech after clinching the win in the competitive 4th Congressional District against Democrat Doug Owens. Those watching Love's speech were mortified —one campaign volunteer held his hands to his temple as if his head were going to explode, while another man just repeated “disgusting” in reaction to Love's speech.
Emotions were high, tut as devastating as Owen's loss was for Democrats given the closeness of the race with Love grabbing 50.02 percent of the vote to Owens' 46.75 percent—it was still a strong showing. It was also a strong showing for Democrats in other key races. Here's a rundown of some of the highlights from election night 2014.
The Inevitable Carnage
Close finishes marked some key campaigns but for the other congressional races as well as the campaign for the Attorney General, there wasn't much surprise in the ballot slaughter suffered by Democrats.
In the 2nd Congressional District incumbent Rep. Chris Stewart, R-UT nearly doubled the vote garnered by his Democratic opponent Luz Robles, capturing 60.36 percent of the vote to Robles' 33.22 percent. Robles, was not discouraged and lauded her canvassers for helping get out new voters to not only support her campaign but other Democrats on the ticket as well.
In the 1st Congressional District, despite another spirited campaign by West Point graduate Donna McAleer, incumbent Rep. Rob Bishop, R-UT handily won reelection with 64.21 percent of the vote compared to his opponent's 28.95 percent.
And in the third district Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-UT, trounced Democrat Brian Wonnacot without even breaking a sweat—winning 72.35 percent of the vote to his opponent's 22.63 percent finish.
And in the Attorney General's race Sean Reyes also claimed an easy win against his subordinate Charles Stormont, taking home 62.7 percent of the vote to Stormont's 27.53 percent.
Salt Lake County: The Donkey's Domain
At the county level the Dems held their own, claiming victories in two out of three races they had candidates running in, with Jenny Wilson locking down the win for the Salt Lake County Council at Large A seat, and with Arlyn Bradshaw winning his County Council 1 race.
Despite the endearing mustache Daniel Snarr fell to Aimee Winder Newton in County Council 3 by 9 points, and overall Republicans maintained control of the council.
The most-watched county race, however, was clearly the District Attorney's race that saw Democrat Sim Gill pitted against his subordinate prosecutor Steve Nelson, who repeatedly challenged his boss over charges in police shootings and for using the corruption investigation against former Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff for political points.
Gill in the end bested Nelson with 52.27 percent of the vote to Nelson's 47.73 percent, and in his speech said he would not hold a vendetta against those who had challenged his run.
“Many people who have not supported us and challenged us, I say that's OK because that what the nature of Democracy is all about,” Gill said.
Democrats defended their turf at the Legislature, not losing any seats in the House or Senate and actually gaining a house seat—House District 69 where former lawmaker Brad King took back the seat that was left vacant this election by Rep. Jerry Anderson, R-Price. Anderson, a kindly old science teacher, made headlines last session
when he scoffed at climate change and told a committee that “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.”
Back in Salt Lake County Democrats fought off a couple of very close contests like in House District 30 where Michael Lee barely secured victory with a 51.02 percent win against former lawmaker Fred Cox who finished with 48.98 percent.
In House District 31 incumbent Democrat Rep. Larry Wiley, D-West Valley won a too-close-for comfort race against Sophia Dicaro—50.48 percent to 49.52 percent, a difference of only 33 votes. Despite the modest gain, Democrats will still be outnumbered by a Republican super majority in both houses.
District 4 Congressional Throwdown
Democrat Doug Owens held an early lead throughout election night giving Democrats hope that they would be able to keep one of their own in Utah to continue on outgoing Rep. Jim Matheson's 14 years on the hill. But in the literal eleventh hour of the night, final tallies from Utah County helped propel Love to the lead against her opponent and eventual win of 50.02 percent to Owens' 46.75, with a spread of over 4,000 votes.
Love would not only make history in helping the state block out Democratic representation in Congress but would also make national history as the first Black Republican Congresswoman.
Owens was a relative unknown compared to Love who made headlines in her highly watched 2012 campaign against Matheson, and despite being outspent by millions of dollars in a highly conservative district he still came within nearly three points of Love, who had long been considered a lock for the election.
In Love's victory speech she thanked her supporters for their trust and directed them to the fight ahead, in which she called to mind the courage and tenacity of David from the Biblical story of David and Goliath.
“That is the attitude we need to have as we take on the Goliaths of debt, Obamacare, out-of-control spending and the Godzilla we call the federal government!” Love said to roars of applause.
Owens in a simple concession speech likewise thanked his supporters and family and closed by playing off the line of a poem about Sir Andrew Barton, a famous Scottish privateer.
“Let us lay down and bleed a while and we will rise and fight again for all these wonderful things we believe in,” Owens said.