Caroline Gleich wants to change what people think a senator should 'look' like

Caroline Gleich on the steps of the Capitol in Salt Lake City after filing as a U.S. Senate candidate on Jan. 8.

Caroline Gleich on the steps of the Capitol in Salt Lake City after filing as a U.S. Senate candidate on Jan. 8. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — "I don't look like a U.S. senator."

It's a message professional ski mountaineer and Democratic Senate candidate Caroline Gleich has heard often enough she began her first televised ad of the 2024 cycle by addressing it. Gleich goes on to describe herself as an "athlete," "trailblazer" and "problem-solver" in the ad, which was released Wednesday.

"You sure I don't look like a senator?" she asks.

At 38, Gleich isn't just trying to become the second-youngest senator in a chamber where the median age is 65.3, she's trying to do so in a state that hasn't elected a Democratic senator since 1970. And, although she has built up an impressive Instagram following, she's facing several Republican challengers with deep pockets and years of governing experience.

Asked during an interview with Tuesday how she plans to upset the decadeslong trend of GOP control of the state's Senate delegation, Gleich said, "Utah has never seen a candidate like me, and I'm excited to usher in a whole new generation of leaders."

"Utah is changing a lot," she added, "and the average age of Utah is 30 years old. ... I think we can all agree that it's time for new perspectives and more diversity in age in Congress."

Gleich is one of three Democrats who have filed to run for the seat currently held by Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican who announced he would step down at the end of his current term. Romney has developed a reputation — for better or worse, depending on one's political persuasion — for bucking members of his own party, specifically when it comes to former President Donald Trump.

Romney and Gleich may not agree on much, but the Democratic hopeful considers the outgoing senator a role model when it comes to going "against the grain" or pushing back against "groupthink mentality" within a party.

"I'm a woman of principle over party; I'm very inspired by Mitt Romney," Gleich said. "I've also been very inspired by (former Wyoming Rep.) Liz Cheney and former (Arizona Sen.) John McCain" — both Republicans.

In a heavily conservative state, Gleich will need to appeal not just to Democrats, and she said she's hoping to appeal to traditional Republican voters who have become disaffected with the direction of the party in the last decade.

"With the way that the Republican Party has been trending and the increasing extremism and hateful vitriol, there are a lot of people who are looking for a new home politically," she said. "So for those Republicans that are disenchanted with the leadership in the party currently, I would invite them. I'd love to chat with them. I would invite them to learn and listen and to meet with me because I think that we can find them a home with us."

When asked about policies or ideas she would be willing to go against her party on, Gleich initially demurred, but when pressed, said she's opposed to partisan gerrymandering on both sides of the political spectrum.

"I don't care which party is doing it — any efforts made to divide communities for political gain, that dilutes the power of people's votes, and it makes government less effective because communitywide solutions are much harder to achieve when communities are divided," she said.

Gleich has previously advocated for environmental protections and clean air, but during the campaign she has heard one complaint often: the rising cost of housing. If elected, she would like to work toward establishing a federal office to research and collect data on housing and homelessness, saying, "As the richest country in the world, that's an issue we should be able to solve."

She would also consider a federal tax credit for first-time homebuyers to help offset the down payment cost on a home. It's an issue she hopes will appeal to a younger generation of voters and demonstrate that politicians can promote positive outcomes.

"I would just urge folks that are disillusioned with the state of politics to consider the power that we have to bring new voices, new leadership, and different perspective to the Senate through my candidacy," Gleich said.

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Bridger Beal-Cvetko covers Utah politics, Salt Lake County communities and breaking news for He is a graduate of Utah Valley University.


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