Hundreds rally for Sen. Mike Lee despite low approval numbers

Published: Saturday, Nov. 2 2013 4:50 p.m. MDT

Utah Senator Mike Lee waves to the crowd during a rally in South Jordan on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SOUTH JORDAN — David and Bonnie Goddard stood with hundreds of other supporters at a rally for Sen. Mike Lee on Saturday, "to say we are happy with what he is doing out there in Washington."

"I'm furious at the Democrats who believe Mike Lee isn't supported," David Goddard said.

The grassroots rally, which was organized by two Utah moms and held at Riverfront West Park, set out to disprove recent polls that showed falling favor among Utahns for Lee's fight against the Affordable Care Act.

Results of the two recent polls — a Deseret News/KSL poll by Dan Jones & Associates and one by BYU's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy — both showed more Utahns want Lee to be more willing to compromise, and that shutting down the government as part of the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act was unnecessary.

Lee's favorability rating was below 50 percent in both October polls.

"The only numbers I'm worried about are the number of Utahns who are losing jobs, who are having their wages cut or their hours slashed, or are losing their health care plan or their doctor," Lee said Saturday. He said he had planned around a government shutdown, hoping "to pass a series of spending bills to keep the rest of government funded while defunding Obamacare."

The senator has since received backlash from local and national media for his outspoken behavior, which some say led to the impasse in Congress that ultimately ended in closure of government services. The 16-day partial government shutdown shaved an estimated $25 billion from economic growth this quarter, according to The Associated Press.

"I'm sick of them wasting our money," said Jim Grady, of Rose Park, who believes Lee doesn't represent Utah's majority. "I'm tired of paying his salary."

Grady was one of about a dozen Democrats who attended the rally to show their disapproval of Lee.

"I do not approve of him and I do not think he is fulfilling the best interests of his constituents," said Mel Walker, who held a sign that, at one point, was ripped from her hands by Lee supporters. She said she attended the rally because of concerns she has as a mother.

"Mike Lee doesn't speak for Utah," Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis said in a statement released Saturday. He called Lee's actions "grenade-throwing governing tactics" and said Lee has "made himself a national laughingstock."

Swarms of others at the rally, however, support Lee and praised him for about two hours on Saturday, with endless chants and banners, saying, "We like Mike."

"I am lucky and blessed to be from a place that has a senator like Mike Lee and I feel he represents the great state of Utah well," Amelia Powers, of Utah County's West Mountain, said. Powers was one of two Utah moms who helped organize the event, using a Facebook page they created on Monday to gather support.

Powers said she is proud of Lee "for doing what he said he would."

"He's actually standing up for what is right," said Mike Brown of Bountiful. "He is keeping his oath to support and defend the Constitution."

As a freshman lawmaker in the Utah Legislature, Rep. Dana Layton, R-Orem, said she relates to Lee as a new senator and sometimes feels intimidated to stand up for what she believes.

"The pressure to keep your head down and go with the flow is real," she said, lauding Lee for forging ahead at the federal level.

Lee told the crowd that he's up to the task of "taking on the establishment."

"We've got to act now and together we can," he said. "We can, we must and we will."

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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