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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, File Photo

Democrat Jenny Wilson exploring run for Hatch's Senate seat

By Dennis Romboy  |  Posted Apr 10th, 2017 @ 6:31pm



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SALT LAKE CITY — Even before becoming fed up with what she sees as boys-club elitism brewing in the U.S. Senate seat held by seven-term GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch, Democrat Jenny Wilson started thinking about a run for the office.

Hatch recently mentioning former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as his possible successor, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. also considering a Senate run, drew Wilson's ire.

"It got me close to saying, 'Yes, I'm in,'" she said Monday.

Utahns deserve an open campaign where anyone could participate, not a coronation by the wealthy and privileged, the Salt Lake County councilwoman said.

"As a fifth-generation Utahn and elected official working in the state and on the ground, the back and forth between the Hatches, Romneys and Huntsmans regarding who is entitled to a seat in the U.S. Senate is offensive," Wilson said. "The Senate seat is not a family heirloom to be passed along from one elite family to another."

Wilson isn't the lone Democrat looking at a Senate run.

Mitchell Vice announced in a press release Monday that he is creating an exploratory committee. A Southern California native, Vice moved to Utah in 1993 and works in advertising and marketing.

"I am committed to transforming politics into a conversation in which every citizen contributes powerfully and fearlessly," he said. "It is important that all Utahns, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation, have a seat at the table when it comes to discussing policies that will make them thrive both socially and economically."

Hatch in recent months has sounded like he intends to run for an eighth term, though he said he might step aside if he "could get a really outstanding person to run" and cited Romney as someone who "would be perfect" to take over for him.

Huntsman has shown interest but has reportedly been tapped by President Donald Trump to be the U.S. ambassador to Russia.

Wilson, 51, said those three have served the state well in various capacities, but it's time for a senator who can bridge the past with the future. Utahns, she said, need someone who listens to people throughout the state, who is involved in the community, who can stand up for struggling single mothers.

"I don't hear Huntsman, Romney or Hatch paying attention to that voice," she said. "Theyre not on the ground. They're not going to be on the ground."

Wilson said she has a good sense of the needs in the state.

A former chief of staff to Democratic Rep. Bill Orton, Wilson has worked in politics in Washington, D.C., and in Utah.

Wilson in 2004 was the first woman elected to the Salt Lake County Council but did not seek re-election in 2010. She ran again in 2014 and is serving her second six-year term. She unsuccessfully ran for Salt Lake City mayor in 2007.

On the council, Wilson deals with canyon preservation, traffic management and health care. In her first term, she spearheaded policy initiatives on ethics reform and health benefits for partners of LGBT county employees.

Wilson said she expects to file papers with the Federal Election Commission this week and form an exploratory committee as required once a candidate raises $5,000. The deadline to declare as a candidate is January 2018.

Wilson, the daughter of former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson, said she knows how to raise money and how to run campaign.

"If I am in the race, it will be a viable race," she said.

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