Indigenous Democrat James Singer challenging Orrin Hatch in 2018

james singer

Indigenous activist James Singer officially launched his candidacy for the United States Senate this week. He will be challenging Senate president pro tempore Orrin Hatch as a Democrat in the 2018 Utah race.

Singer is a 34-year-old Utah native who has spent his life fighting for equality, particularly for Native Americans. He was inspired to run for office by the sickening treatment of indigenous water protectors at Standing Rock, and what that said about the American political system.

“I was moved to action as I saw my Native sisters and brothers stand against an encroachment which threatened not only their inherent sovereignty, but also their humanity,” the Navajo Mormon wrote in a campaign mission statement. “These water protectors were pummeled with rubber bullets, sprayed with powerful water cannons in freezing temperatures, attacked with dogs, and shot with pepper spray, while bulldozers cleared away sacred land and burial sites so that a pipeline could be pushed through. The love of money by a small, but powerful few, is sickening to the rest of Americans, regardless of political affiliation.”

singer.jpg

Singer has crafted a platform that successfully combines economic populism with equality for marginalized Americans, something the Democratic Party has struggled with, especially in the past year with the failure of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Inequality “exacerbates racism and sexism” and “has a direct effect on many of the social problems we face in healthcare, education, and the environment,” says Singer.

Though Singer is clearly running a quite progressive campaign, he, like many other liberal candidates, is trying to brand himself as an outsider who does not fall into traditional partisan categories. In his mission statement, he criticizes both Democrats and Republicans, essentially saying that they have become one and the same by embracing corporate capitalism that exploits working Americans. Like Bernie Sanders, who Singer states he was inspired by, Singer ends his mission statement describing “A Future to Believe In” – “We can move towards a socially democratic future of shared prosperity, justice, respect, greater equality, and cooperation.”

Democrats have not seriously focused on Utah for many years now. Utah has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1970. No recent Utah Senate races have even been competitive. In 2016, incumbent Republican Mike Lee crushed Democratic challenger Misty Snow by a whopping 41 points. In 2012, Hatch crushed his opponent by 35 points. And the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has already announced that it plans to focus its resources on re-electing the 10 Democrats who are running in 2018 in states won by Donald Trump. As with other Democratic Senate candidates in red states, it seems that Singer must rely on grassroots liberal enthusiasm if he is to compete with Orrin Hatch, or potentially Mitt Romney or Evan McMullin, in 2018.

So far, Singer has raised almost $3000 of his $5000 Crowdpac goal. This is nothing compared to Hatch’s $3.5 million, but it’s a start. And even if Singer doesn’t win the seat or even secure the Democratic nomination, he is still doing important work as an indigenous candidate. At his campaign launch, he told the crowd: “In 2018, there should be native people running in every contest.”

Support Singer’s grassroots progressive populism by donating to his Crowdpac here!

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Mitt Romney vs. Evan McMullin in 2018?

hatch romney
Colin E. Braley / AP
Both 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and 2016 conservative presidential candidate Evan McMullin are considering running for Senate president pro tempore Orrin Hatch’s seat in the 2018 Utah Senate election.

Although Hatch, the longest-serving member of the Senate, said in 2012 that his seventh term would be his last, at the moment he still plans on running for his eighth in 2018. However, he recently said that he may not to run for re-election next year if he or his wife’s health deteriorates or if Mitt Romney wants to run. The 83-year-old senator told 2News on Monday that he actually spoke with Romney about next year’s election.

“I thought maybe if I could get a Mitt Romney to run, that he would be a great replacement. I don’t think Mitt’s going to do that, but I’m just trying to make sure this state is taken care of no matter what happens.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also spoken to Romney about running for the Utah Senate seat. McConnell told reporters: “Orrin has to decide what he wants to do. If he wants to run again, I’m for him.”

But not everyone is concerned about whether or not Hatch wants to serve 48 years in the Senate. Evan McMullin, who ran for president in 2016 as the “conservative alternative” to Donald Trump, is considering running in 2018 for either Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s House seat or Orrin Hatch’s Senate seat.

evan mcmullin
George Frey / Getty Images
For months now, McMullin has been one of the most prominent conservative critics of Trump. He announced his presidential candidacy on August 8, 2016, far too late for him to make it onto many ballots. Though he was clearly never going to take the White House, he gained notoriety for his willingness to denounce Trump in the clearest terms possible, something the vast majority of Republicans refused to do. McMullin did not mince words whatsoever, calling Trump a “neo-fascist,” a racist, a serial sexual assaulter, and a Russian puppet. Trump attacked McMullin at several rallies after McMullin started polling well in his home state of Utah, sometimes even tying Hillary Clinton and Trump. McMullin ended up receiving 21.54% of the vote in Utah, just 5.92 points less than Clinton.

While he did not end up making a real dent in the election, receiving less than 1% of the vote, McMullin’s candidacy made him one of the main figureheads in the tiny conservative faction of the Trump Resistance. McMullin has gone so far to form Stand Up Republican, a conservative anti-Trump organization intended “to uphold the Constitution and defend the democratic norms and institutions upon which the protection of our basic rights depend.”

But will McMullin’s opposition to Trump help or hurt him if he runs for Hatch’s seat in 2018? At the moment, it’s not quite clear. Recent polls show that Utahns are split on Trump’s performance in the White House.

Trump Approval Utah

However, there is broad consensus among Utahns about whether or not Hatch should run for an eighth term. An August 2016 poll found that 71% want Hatch to retire, while a January 2017 poll found that 78% want him to retire. The same poll found that former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who is now serving as United States Ambassador to Russia, would easily beat Hatch in the 2018 Republican primary.

Utah Poll

Not only would Huntsman likely beat Hatch, about two-thirds of Utahns favor him running in 2018.

Huntsman

While UtahPolicy.com found that 65% of Utah Republicans have a favorable view of Hatch, 62% still want Huntsman to run in 2018.

Nonetheless, Hatch is the only Republican who has announced his candidacy so far. Hatch has already raised $1.3 million for 2018, while McMullin, Huntsman, and Romney may not even run. And Hatch has beaten his Democratic opponents with over 60% of the vote since 1988.

Utahns may be ready for Hatch to retire, but without a formidable challenger, it looks like we’ll be stuck with the Senate president pro tempore till 2024.