SALT LAKE CITY — U.S. Senate candidate Jenny Wilson challenged Mitt Romney and the Trump administration Friday, saying Romney has been "absent" and that recent environmental deregulation is putting Utahns' health at risk.
"I often get asked if he's even in town," Wilson said. "An absent candidate will be an absent senator."
She listed ways that she has been an "engaged candidate," including her seat on the Salt Lake County Council, working on issues such as the opioid crisis, clean air, and other environmental issues involving local rivers and canyons.
Wilson added that the nation needs a new generation of leaders who actually understand what is happening in the community.
"I have concerns that Romney doesn't represent that," she said of the Republican nominee in the race to replace outgoing Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
Romney's campaign spokeswoman MJ Henshaw said calling him absent would be inaccurate.
"Yesterday, he was at Snow College meeting with a crowd of more than 800 students," Henshaw said. "This morning, he spent time with firefighters, first responders, and others affected by the Pole Creek Fire and Bald Mountain Fire to understand how these fires can (be) better fought and prevented."
Wilson focused Friday morning on air pollution, saying the Wasatch Front has especially high health risks from pollution because of the geography and population growth.
She said she was an early proponent for improving Utah's air, organizing a pollution-related task force when other agencies or governments were not coming together to address the issue.
Wilson talked about efforts Utah has made to improve air quality, such as building bike lanes, increasing public transportation, and even refineries investing in ways to decrease their emissions.
But she warned the progress Utah has made in improving air quality could be erased "quicker than a shaken Etch A Sketch" if the Trump administration continues its deregulation efforts.
Wilson said Trump and others in Washington are putting corporations before average citizens, both in environmental and economic issues.
Removing environmental regulations saves corporations money, she said, but will pollute the air and damage people's health. Similarly, she said, the most recent Republican tax bill prioritized corporations and investors over lower- and middle-income families.
"It's about time the government gives people a break," she said, "not corporations and the very wealthy."