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WEST JORDAN — Three-term Republican state Rep. Kim Coleman said Friday she’s in the race for the 4th Congressional District seat now held by Utah’s only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams.
“We’re in this. We’re viable. We’re strong. We’re moving forward,” Coleman told the Deseret News in advance of making a formal announcement Saturday morning and rallying supporters at the opening of her campaign headquarters in West Jordan.
She’s already been raising money for a congressional run, reporting more than $110,000 in contributions to the Federal Election Commission as of Sept. 30 of last year, but had yet to take the final step to join the other Republicans in the race.
Coleman said she was waiting to show that she could generate the money needed for the race.
“We’ve always known we have a strong, strong grassroots support base, but could I raise money? We have surprised some people,” she said. Although she didn’t have an updated total, she says she’s anticipating being recognized as a “Young Gun” candidate by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Last fall, state Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert was named to the program aimed at identifying strong candidates around the country in races for key congressional seats in 2020 after bringing in more than $400,000 for the race, including a personal loan.
But Hemmert recently dropped out of the race, citing the impact on his dry cleaning business, leaving a list of Republican candidates that includes former Utah GOP communications adviser Kathleen Anderson, former KSL Newsradio host Jay Mcfarland, former NFL player Burgess Owens and nurse practitioner Chris Biesinger.
Coleman, who has represented state House District 42 in the Utah Legislature since 2015, said she and Hemmert “were regarded as the competitive candidates in the race. ... He did have stronger financials, where I had stronger support among the citizens.”
With Hemmert out, “and the question of fundraising has now been eliminated, yeah, it looks great for us,” she said. “We lead the race with grassroots and strong financials.”
Coleman said she’s the best Republican to take the seat from McAdams “because I can. Because I can beat him.”
McAdams won the seat in 2018 by less than 700 votes, defeating two-term incumbent Republican Rep. Mia Love in one of the state’s most contentious and expensive races. The former Salt Lake County mayor reported more than $1 million in his campaign account last fall, the most recent FEC filing deadline.
In that election, Coleman said she won around 1,000 more votes in her House District race than Love did. Love, now a CNN contributor, encouraged Hemmert to run but had not endorsed a Republican candidate and has suggested repeatedly she might get in the race.
Coleman said she doesn’t expect to see competition from Love.
“We’re running on our own platform, our own ideas. I hope to have her support. I think in the end, I will have broad-based support from lots of people,” she said. “I think I’m regarded as fairly conservative, but I have a history of reaching across the aisle, have a history of finding common ground based on ideas far more than party.”
An example, Coleman said, is her vote against a tax reform package backed by Republican legislative leaders in a recent special session because it was not “good policy.” She said she’s also signed a referendum circulating to repeal the reduction in state income taxes and increase of state sales taxes on food, gas and some services.
“That’s what is satisfying to me is, I know kind of where I am on that political spectrum,” she said, but she is attracting support from independents and Democrats as well as Republicans “based on who I am, my character, my personality a little bit, and how I represent.”
McAdams, Coleman said, is “out of sync” with the 4th District, especially with his vote to impeach President Donald Trump on charges he abused his power by pressuring a foreign leader to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and obstructed Congress’ investigation into his actions.
“That is no small thing,” she said. “The 4th District voted for this president, and we’ve watched this impeachment sham go on for weeks. I think a lot of us waited to see, is he going to be on the side of a fair process? Is he going to be on the side of honoring the Constitution? Is he going to be on the side of reflecting the will of the voters of the district?”
We’ve always known we have a strong, strong grassroots support base, but could I raise money? We have surprised some people.
–Rep. Kim Coleman
Coleman also said McAdams, unlike her, does not live in the 4th District that includes portions of Salt Lake and Utah counties. McAdams lives in the Sugar House neighborhood a block north of Fairmont Park, the dividing line for the 4th District, his campaign manager, Andrew Roberts, said.
Roberts said that’s the same home McAdams lived in when he won the 2018 race and noted that 85% of the 4th District’s residents are in Salt Lake County, where McAdams, also a former state lawmaker, was elected to two terms as county mayor.
“I’ve rooted here,” Coleman said. “I’ve raised my family here and just have served in and for the community for a long time, alongside with the residents of much of the district,” including stints with neighborhood watch groups and parent-teacher associations before running for office.
The founder and executive director of a West Valley charter school, Monticello Academy, Coleman said most of her life has been spent raising her five children, ranging in age from 14 to 25.