OGDEN — Mitt Romney, Jenny Wilson's Republican opponent in the race for the U.S. Senate post to be vacated by Orrin Hatch, may have name recognition.

But Wilson, a Democrat and a member of the Salt Lake County Council, thinks she one ups the 2012 GOP U.S. presidential nominee in at least one key regard — roots in Utah.

"I'm from here. I work at the local level. I am just like other Utahns. I have a mortgage to pay," she said Wednesday during a campaign stop at Weber State University. "I think that puts me in touch with Utahns in a way that he simply cannot be. (Romney's) not from here. He's lived here only a limited amount of time."

Likewise, Wilson, 52, thinks she's better positioned to shake up the "stale" U.S. Congress, as someone tuned in to the growth and changing demographics of the state. "I feel it's critical we have a Utahn who understands that, one who's worked in the community and can go in as a reformer, as somebody who has the energy to bring about the change we need," she said. "I would like to join a new generation of leaders in changing Congress."

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In a Republican stronghold like Utah, Wilson faces a big task in upending Romney, 71, whose family roots in the state go back five generations though he's only lived here for around 10 years. She's kept busy on the campaign trail, though, and sees light.

The number of undecided Republican voters is surprisingly high, she maintains, while independents are tracking to her candidacy. Then there's the polarizing Republican presidency of Donald Trump, which some observers think could bolster Democratic turnout at the polls on Nov. 6, Election Day.

"If there's ever a year with disruption that will help Democratic candidates, it's probably this year," Wilson said.

Wilson visited three Weber State classes during her Ogden stop Wednesday and was scheduled to canvass for votes with Democratic Utah House hopeful Kathie Darby later in the afternoon. In remarks to a history class, she talked about her work with Republicans as a member of the Salt Lake County Council, saying it's the sort of bipartisanship she'd like to bring to the U.S. Senate.

"We can get testy with each other," she said. "But we work it out."

Later, in an interview with the Standard-Examiner, she touched on Brett Kavanaugh's controversial U.S. Supreme Court nomination, Hatch's seven-term tenure, immigration and more.

If the Senate were to vote now on Kavanaugh's nomination, she said, she'd vote no, though, with more time, she'd listen to anything turned up in the ongoing FBI investigation into the hopeful. Kavanaugh's nomination has been stalled by allegations of sexual assault levied by Christine Blasey Ford dating to their teen years.

"I disagreed with the timing. I think the investigation should have come first, not the hearing," Wilson said, alluding to the revelation of Ford's charges relatively late in the nomination process. "But when she was given the opportunity to sit there for a couple hours and explain what happened, I found her incredibly credible."

To consider Kavanaugh a worthy candidate "you'd have to not believe her... And I believed her," Wilson said. "I just think we're down a road right now where we would be better served by another nominee."

As for Hatch, the timing of his decision, announced earlier this year, not to run again was good, she said, noting praise he has directed Trump's way. She filed originally to challenge Hatch for the U.S. Senate, but then he announced plans he wouldn't vie for an eighth term, laying the groundwork for Romney's bid.

"I was confused by his doubling down on the Trump administration earlier in this year at every turn. I remain confused and I think Orrin Hatch made the right decision to move on," she said.

She had grim words for Trump. "I do think we're polarized until he's gone," she said. "And I would hope the Republicans would put up another nominee (in 2020), the Democrats have a good nominee and the Trump era ends sooner than later."

Even so, she'd work with Trump if elected to the Senate, and noted that talk from his administration of addressing the nation's ailing infrastructure buoyed her before the efforts fizzled. "Because I have frustration with his governance style and that fact that he's not operating, in my opinion, as a moral leader — that doesn't mean that I would just shut him out," she said.

On the issues, immigration reform ranks as a high priority. She backs a means giving undocumented immigrants a way to remain in the country lawfully, while weeding out those who "should be behind bars."

"Let people register, put them in a position to become full taxpaying citizens or initially give them legal status without citizenship," she said. If they manage well, "then allow them a path to citizenship."

She'd like to rework Trump's tax reform plan, pushing the corporate tax rate up, higher than where the president put it but lower than the prior rate, before passage of the president's plan, among other things.

"We capture that amount and apply it to the deficit so we don't go as deeply in debt from the bill," she said.

Three minor-party candidates and seven write-in hopefuls are also vying for the U.S. Senate seat.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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