OREM — Utah Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert announced Wednesday he’s running for Congress in the 4th District, saying he knows firsthand the impacts of decisions made in Washington, D.C., because his Wasatch Front dry cleaning business no longer uses its namesake bright red wire hangers.
“We don’t have red hangers because of Chinese steel tariffs. Our hangers come out of China,” the 42-year-old first-term Orem Republican said. “We do need a strong economy. We do need certain industries that we’ve lost and there’s value in having those industries. But in general, I do not support tariffs.”
But while Hemmert disagrees with President Donald Trump on tariffs and wants to see a plan put in place to tackle the nation’s mounting deficit, he said he continues to support the president on other policies, including tax cuts. He also said he’d like to see Trump stay away from Twitter.
“I’m a very results-oriented person. I like the results of his presidency,” Hemmert said. “Like, I think, most people, I could do without the tweets,”
The owner of the Red Hanger Cleaners chain said it’s his business experience that gives him an advantage over other candidates in the race, including the incumbent, Rep. Ben McAdams, a former state lawmaker and Salt Lake County mayor and the only Democrat in Utah’s congressional delegation.
“Let’s start electing people with a different kind of a background that aren’t, to speak to our incumbent, that aren’t career politicians,” he said. “Someone who’s had to make a payroll every two weeks with a business. Someone who’s had to live under the regulations, both state and federal on a daily basis.”
Hemmert said he understands that policy decisions should “minimize government in our lives while still respecting that there is a role for government,” and asked that voters put “resume over rhetoric” in considering him for the job of a congressman.
“Unfortunately, when we elect people for office, too often I think we focus on what they say, or their rhetoric, as opposed to their track record, or what they’ve done, which to me is resume,” Hemmert said. “If you look at that, and you ask yourself, ‘Who do we have confidence in to go get stuff done?’ I would argue I am the best candidate.”
He also said he would counter what he called the increased “socialist shift” in the Democratic Party nationally.
“Utah deserves to be represented by Utah values,” Hemmert said, citing McAdams’ lone Utah vote for the federal Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in employment and other areas. “Our current congressman can’t do that as a Democrat.”
Before the vote, McAdams clarified on the floor of the U.S. House that the act “does not change our nation’s long-standing First Amendment rights to free religious exercise, speech and association” or affect religious observances in houses of worship.
Hemmert said the Equality Act “is not something that supports what we have here in Utah, which is true balance between religion and sexual orientation,” a reference to the nationally recognized 2015 Utah law that provides anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community while ensuring religious liberties.
There are already other Republicans in the race, including Kathleen Anderson, a former Davis County GOP official who served as the Utah GOP communications director when her husband, Rob, was state party chairman; state Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan; and former KSL Newsradio host Jay Mcfarland.
Mia Love, the Republican who held the 4th District seat in Congress for two terms before being defeated by McAdams last year, has said she is ready to run again unless a candidate steps forward who she believes can win in November 2020.
Love has previously named Hemmert as a candidate she could get behind. On Wednesday, she said Hemmert’s decision to get in the race is “great. He was one I was hoping would get in. I think he will have a great chance at taking that seat back.”
But Love said she needs to “have another conversation” with Hemmert before making a definitive decision about what would be her fifth run for Congress.
Hemmert was appointed to fill a vacancy in the state Senate in 2016 and elected to the post a few months later in his first run for public office, and joined the majority Republican leadership two years later. He said choosing not to seek reelection to the Senate next year has been the “hardest part” of making the decision to run for Congress.
“I think we need to be sending a different kind of candidate back to Washington,” he said. “I think it matters and I think it matters enough that I’m willing to walk away from what I have and go do this.”
He said he intends to finish out his Senate term and stay in his leadership post. The father of six children ranging from 7 to 18 years old, Hemmert has an undergraduate degree in economics as well as both an MBA and a law degree from Brigham Young University.