U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop has won his ninth and what he says will be his final term in the U.S. House, easily fending off three challengers for the 1st District post.
As votes from Tuesday's balloting were still being counted, the eight-term incumbent had 115,512 votes, 62.7 percent of the total. Democrat Lee Castillo trailed far behind with 24.5 percent of the vote, Eric Eliason of the United Utah Party had 11.2 percent and Green Party hopeful Adam Davis had 1.7 percent.
"There's a whole lot of things I want to do," Bishop said Tuesday night by phone from a state GOP celebration in Salt Lake City. Bishop, first elected to the U.S. House in 2002, has won all his contests for the seat by wide margins, at least 24 percentage points, and the results from Tuesday's voting, still unofficial, were no different.
Bolstering defense spending will be one key focus in the coming congressional term, Bishop said, and inroads have already been made in that direction. "We've only started the rebuilding of our military," Bishop said.
Improving access to federal and public lands will be another priority.
"On the public lands issues, on natural resources, I'm saying the same thing — it's access that's important," he said during a stop in Weber County on Monday, discussing likely priorities in the event of a victory. To that end, he said, "you got to make sure that people can go on to those public lands. The federal government has always been the most capricious in closing land, in closing access, and I want to guarantee it does not happen."
If Democrats win control of the U.S. House when the dust settles Tuesday, Bishop will no longer stay as chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, a position he said has served Utah well. He'll be ranking member, though, and that counts.
"I can do more as chairman than I can as ranking member, but I've been in that position before... We can work through this thing," he said.
Castillo offered congratulations, but also put a request to Bishop.
"He creamed us. I would like to congratulate him, but I would also challenge him to represent the people of Utah and not the special interests," he said by phone from Layton.
Bishop, a former Utah House speaker from Brigham City, touted himself as the "only conservative" in the race, representing "the mainstream" of the 1st District. The district includes Weber County, northern Davis County and eight other counties in northern and northeastern Utah. He revealed last year that the coming term would be his last if he won reelection and speaking Tuesday night, he stuck by that.
"Two years from now I probably won't be ready to go, but I have to," he said. "I still think that's the opportune time for me."
Castillo, a social worker from Layton, had sounded a message of inclusiveness with his campaign motto, "Utah is for everybody." Eliason, an investment group partner from Logan, had cast himself as a moderate alternative to the two main parties and chided Bishop for the contributions he receives from oil and gas interests. Davis said he was running, in part, to help establish a larger presence in Utah of the Green Party.