US Senate hopeful Kael Weston says his candidacy gives voters a choice
Photo supplied, Kael Weston campaign
Democrats typically face uphill battles in Utah elections, but Kael Weston, the Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful, sees a pathway to victory.
Republican Mike Lee, the incumbent, is seeking his third term in the post, challenged not only by Weston, a number of other Democrats and even several other GOPers, but also by independent hopeful Evan McMullin.
Significantly, with McMullin calling on partisans of all stripes, including Democrats, to throw their support to him to bolster his prospects of unseating the incumbent, Weston also emphasizes that his presence in the race makes sure voters have a choice.
Lee, a Donald Trump backer, and McMullin, a vocal Trump critic, might debate the former U.S. president’s attributes, Weston said. They might offer differing views on the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. “But they wouldn’t be debating on really important policy areas. Because if you compare their records and their own comments, they have a lot in common,” he went on.
Weston’s presence in the race, by contrast, gives voters a real alternative to Lee and McMullin, the Democrat said. McMullin unsuccessfully vied as an independent U.S. presidential candidate in 2016, when Trump won, while Weston unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, a Republican, in 2020 for the 2nd District U.S. House seat.
Photo supplied, Gina Timmerman
Weston said he favors the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, while McMullin and Lee have both voiced opposition to the federal health insurance program. Likewise, Weston believes the federal government has a role in management of public lands while Lee and McMullin have been more critical of federal involvement.
Utah voters, Weston said, “should not be forced to choose between two Senate candidates who basically on policy are the same.”
The issue is a big one for Weston, as Ben McAdams, a Democrat and the former Utah congressman, is onboard with McMullin and has called on other Democrats to support McMullin’s candidacy, not Weston or any of the other Democratic hopefuls. McAdam sees McMullin as a more viable candidate to defeat the incumbent.
If that push gains traction, though, it would throw a monkey wrench in Weston’s bid, already tough enough being a Democrat. Thus, he puts a big focus on his Democratic credentials and the distinctive point of view that he offers.
Weston, speaking to the Standard-Examiner last week by phone while on a campaign swing through southern Utah, alluded to the redrawing of the U.S. congressional boundaries in Utah late last year, per the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau headcount. Many Democrats and others say the new boundaries, approved by GOP lawmakers, are meant to keep Republicans in power in Utah’s four U.S. House seats.
Many Utah voters, though, “want more political balance,” Weston said, and he offers that. “There’s a political marketplace argument that I make.”
The U.S. Federal Election Commission website identified Austin Searle and Allen Glines as other Democratic hopefuls for the U.S. Senate post. On the GOP side, Becky Edwards, Ally Isom, Laird Hamblin and Benjamin Davis are also running, in addition to independent hopeful Evan Barlow.
Weston, from Salt Lake City, previously worked in the U.S. State Department, serving the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan in times of war. More recently, he’s been an instructor at Marine Corps University.
That U.S. State Department experience, helping mediate warring sides, gives Weston a leg up in contending with partisan bickering at the national level, another big issue for him. “I also think there’s a lot of division in our country that I’m particularly qualified to address given my seven years and two wars,” he said.
While he touts preserving the Affordable Care Act and public lands management as key issues, he more broadly paints himself as a voice for rank-and-file Utahns. “The ones I think about most are the ones that get up early, get home late and do it all over again. There are a lot of people who aren’t living in $3,000 or $4,000 month apartments in downtown Salt Lake,” he said.
As for the path to victory, he said the most viable route is if Republicans replace Lee with one of the other GOP hopefuls, setting up a November showdown between that GOPer, McMullin and Weston, presuming he gets the Democratic Party nomination. More realistic, perhaps, is that Lee gets the GOP nod, setting up a three-way contest between him, McMullin and Weston, presuming Democrats pick him.
McMullin and whichever GOP hopeful ends up on the ballot would split voters on the right, per Weston’s scenario, allowing him to squeak past them and win the Senate seat. That’s how Frank Moss, a Democrat, won a U.S. Senate seat all the way back in 1958, he notes.
“I have a case that’s based on facts,” Weston said. He also pointed to the 37% support he received as a Democratic candidate in his unsuccessful challenge of Stewart two years ago, indicative, he maintains, of a base of support.