Utah 1st District
In May 1869, a motley crowd of Irish and Chinese laborers, teamsters, engineers, train crews, officials and guests from Salt Lake City gathered at Promontory Summit, Utah, to watch the opening of the transcontinental railroad. The Union Pacific train was late and railroad tycoon Leland Stanford’s raised hammer totally missed the golden spike, but an alert telegrapher mimicked the sound over the wire and a photographer recorded the scene for posterity: United at last were the civilized East and the mostly untamed West. In Salt Lake City, the center of the Mormon Church—and of Utah—is Temple Square, illuminated by 300,000 lights during Christmas week and nestled beneath the towering mountains that flank Salt Lake City. The Mormon Tabernacle, home of the famous choir, is here, as is the Salt Lake LDS Temple itself, crowned with the golden angel Moroni. This area has been the focal point of Utah since Mormon leader Brigham Young, looking down at this valley, said, “This is the place.” Ironically, this part of Salt Lake City is the least Mormon and most cosmopolitan part of Utah, with the state university and businesses bringing in outsiders who, flouting Mormon strictures, keep purveyors of alcohol and caffeine in business. Salt Lake County voted 60% for George W. Bush in 2004, up from 55% in 2000, but Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama narrowly carried the county by 296 votes in 2008.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 1st Congressional District of Utah consists of the northern end of the state. It includes most of Salt Lake City’s historic downtown, its distinctive Avenues District and the airport, but it takes in little of the fast-growing suburbia that stretches south of the city. More than half the people in the district live in the stretch of the Wasatch Front, between the mountains and Great Salt Lake, just north of Salt Lake City, in Davis and Weber counties. Davis County is suburban and fairly affluent. Ogden in Weber County is an old working-class railroad town, an industrial center that depends on nearby Hill Air Force Base, home of the advanced F-22A fighter jets.
Farther north in the Cache Valley is Logan, home of Utah State University. This is farming country and very heavily Mormon. Over the mountains to the east of Salt Lake City is Park City, the old mining town that is now a fashionable ski resort and home of actor Robert Redford’s annual Sundance Film Festival. West of Salt Lake City is the desolate Bonneville Salt Flats, where land speed records have been set. This land of stark beauty, much of it federally owned, has been used roughly by man, as a repository for hazardous wastes at civilian and military dumps in Tooele County and as a place for military experimentation on the Dugway Proving Ground, where scientists test defenses against chemical and biological agents. New suburbs out Interstate 80 have made Tooele, where real estate remains affordable, one of the state’s fastest growing counties. With continued delay in making Yucca Mountain in Nevada the nation’s nuclear-waste repository, the Skull Valley temporary storage site, near Dugway, is looking less and less temporary. Politically this is a heavily Republican area, with patches of Democratic strength. The district’s portions of Salt Lake County are trendy and working-class Democratic. Park City is on its way to becoming another Aspen, and is Democratic. The Cache Valley is very heavily Republican, though, and overall the district voted 73% for Republican George W. Bush in 2004 and 64% for Republican John McCain in 2008.