Democrats just scored a stunning midterm election upset with razor-thin victory

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Democrats just captured their 38th additional seat in the House of Representatives today when results from Utah’s 4th district were certified.

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Salt Lake County’s Mayor Ben McAdams defeated incumbent Republican Rep. Mia Love by a slim margin of just 694 votes to become Utah’s only Democratic Congressman. He became just the second Democrat elected to Congress from Utah this century.

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McAdams’ margin of victory over Love was so small he avoided a recount by just 21 votes. The Deseret News reports that the Democrat benefitted from a statewide marijuana legalization ballot initiative:

That those votes “broke dramatically for Ben McAdams indicates they were likely new voters who were much more Democratic in their approach,” likely because of Proposition 2, a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana, he said.

Proposition 2, which passed but will be replaced in next month’s special legislative session, was credited with driving voter turnout throughout the state, energizing young voters, especially those new to the process.

Voters in Utah also approved an independent redistricting commission to combat GOP gerrymandering by a tiny majority.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that this year’s midterm elections drew a truly unprecedented turnout in Utah’s 4th district, leading to the ouster of the only black female Republican Congresswoman:

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In part because of the close McAdams-Love race, Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen that said in her county, “It was an unprecedented turnout: 81.93 percent turnout for a mid-term election.” In comparison, the turnout for both the 2010 and 2014 mid-terms was just 52 percent.

“I really hope that we can tackle immigration reform, especially coming up with a fix for ‘dreamers,’” young people who were brought into the country without papers by their parents, [David] McAdams said. “…my focus is going to be on serving the people of Utah, holding town hall meetings, meeting with constituents, listening to them, and showing them I am working hard to represent them.”

The deep red state’s two Senate seats have been held by Republicans since the 1970s, with Mitt Romney winning by a wide margin this year.  Three other congressional districts in Utah also tilted heavily Republican with the closest margin of victory at 18 points.

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Representative-elect McAdams’ district swung left by 13 points from the 2016 elections.

CNN is still tracking two more House races that are too close to call, one of which is leaning Democrat (New Mexico’s 2nd) and the other leaning Republican (Georgia’s 7th).

If those results hold, then Democrats will pick up 39 new total seats, easily the biggest Democratic gain since the 1974 mid-terms.

Original reporting by Lee Davidson at the Salt Lake Tribune.

Clarification: McAdams is the Mayor of Salt Lake County, not Salt Lake City as this story originally read.

Grant Stern

Editor at Large

Grant Stern is a columnist for the Washington Press. He's also mortgage broker, writer, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida.

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