Meet them in the middle: Utah Blue Dogs, Republican Governance Group

May 20, 2022, 1:46 PM

Utah Blue dogs...

Former Utah Rep Ben McAdams. Photo credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Despite Utah’s long history of leaning solidly to the political right, voters have sent a few Democrats to Congress. They were Bill Orton, Jim Matheson, and most recently Ben McAdams. And all of them belonged to a caucus referred to as Blue Dog Democrats.

Those Blue Dog Democrats were a recent topic on KSL at Night, with host Maura Carabello

“The Blue Dog Coalition has been around for about twenty years,” she said. “It was started in the U.S. House of Representatives. Blue Dog was the term for moderate Democrats.

Related: Utah Democrats will back an independent Evan McMullin, John Curtis facing primary challenger

“They either came from conservative states or were moderate in their views,” she said. “We’ve elected many Blue Dogs from Utah. In fact, I’d say every Democrat we’ve elected recently was a Blue Dog.”

Representative Ben McAdams, one of the Blue Dogs, also joined the conversation on KSL at Night.

“When I was in Congress, we met for dinner once a week. Outside of that, we’d have get togethers. These are people I worked really closely with,” McAdams said.

“When legislation would come onto the House floor, we would often huddle to talk about the bill, what we liked, what we didn’t like. It became the group that I closely associated with.”

Related: Utah Democrats lay out their 2022 goals, address Cox’s State of the State

McAdams said that during his first year as a Congressman, the group, though small, could impact legislation in Washington.

“They had been decimated over the previous decade and grew back. There were 27 of us in Congress, which sounds like a small number, but when the House is evenly divided and there is a very thin margin (I think the Democrats had an 18 seat majority) 27 Blue Dogs could decide whether a bill passed or failed.”

McAdams: “Blue Dog influence was good for Utah”

McAdams says he believes the Blue Dogs were good for Utah, politically representing the middle ground. “It was a strong coalition and really good for Utah. Occupying that space in the center brought influence for the state of Utah.”

Blue Dog Democrats have decreased in number. They’ve gone from 59 in 2008 to 19 now.  But McAdams said they can still have influence, and used last year’s transportation bill (the Infrastructure and Jobs Act) as an example. 

Related: Utah Democrats walk out of session on Critical Race Theory

“The far left said they weren’t going to pass transportation unless they got everything under the sun and Republicans said they didn’t want to give (President) Joe Biden a win so they weren’t going to vote for anything,” McAdams said.

“So the Blue Dogs came in and said, ‘We want to pass this transportation bill, and we’re not going to talk about any of this other stuff until we pass transportation.’ You saw what happened,” McAdams said.

“The House passed it. The Senate passed it. Today we’re looking to see that money invested in Utah’s communities. I would say that would not have happened were it not for the Blue Dogs.”

Is there a Republican version of the Blue Dogs?

Yes there is, McAdams said. Once known as the Tuesday Group, and now the Republican Governance Group,  McAdams said they are “like-minded.” And they’re who the Blue Dogs look to when a bill needs bipartisan support.

“I formed a friendship with a Republican on the other side who was also a moderate, centrist Republican. We became good friends. So when I’m looking to pass a bill, I go to him and say, ‘I’m looking for bipartisan support on this bill. Who do I talk to?'” McAdams said.

“He’d invite me to speak to The Tuesday Group, and we’ll start building coalitions. You form these one-on-one relationships, and those one-on-one relationships take you to twenty people on the other side.

The point of the Blue Dogs and the Tuesday Group? McAdams said that Republican and Democratic centrists “can actually get stuff done.”


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Meet them in the middle: Utah Blue Dogs, Republican Governance Group