SALT LAKE CITY — State Sen. Luz Robles, the Salt Lake Democrat challenging 2nd District Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, rallied some 40 volunteers gathered at Warm Springs Park on Saturday morning before sending them off to canvass area voters.
"It's happening," Robles said, noting the November election is 108 days away. "Our goal is to move as many Utahns to vote by mail. As you guys know, that is going to be our key for success because then we allow people to truly participate."
Robles' husband and campaign field coordinator, Juan Carlos Escamilla, told the volunteers their efforts are critical because too often voters have a difficult time getting to the polls on Election Day.
"This is how we're going to be able to win this election," Escamilla said.
The 2nd District seat in Congress had been held by a Democrat, Rep. Jim Matheson, from 2000 until 2012, when Matheson switched to the state's new 4th District and narrowly defeated Republican Mia Love.
Matheson is not seeking re-election. Love is running again in the 4th District, this time against Democrat Doug Owens, the son of the late former Utah Congressman Wayne Owens.
Stewart, who easily won two years ago in the large district that now includes much of Salt Lake City and extends through the state to St. George, holds what is rated a "solid Republican" seat by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
Robles did not mention Stewart by name but said Congress is lacking "integrity to truly represent the interests of the working families in our state and our nations. Those working families are your family, my family and my neighbor's family."
She said leaders need to "address the real issues, the environment, our air quality, our education, our health care, and really stop with the nonsense that is taking place right now in Washington."
The latest financial disclosure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission shows Stewart raised more than $118,000 from April through June — more than $540,000 total this election cycle — and has nearly $215,000 in cash on hand.
Robles' July quarterly financial disclosure report does not appear on the FEC website. She said her campaign had some issues transmitting the report but it has now been submitted and will show she has almost $20,300 cash on hand.
Although Robles had expressed hopes of raising $1 million when she announced last fall she was running, she said her fundraising total for the past four months is just under $11,200 for a total so far of more than $137,700.
"It's just the reality," Robles said of her opponent having about 10 times as much money available to spend at this point in the campaign. "I think it's telling that working-class individuals, it's difficult for them to run for Congress."
She said she expects her fundraising efforts to get a boost now that she's taken a leave of absence from her position as vice president of Zions Bank's community development group to work full-time on her campaign.
Robles, first elected to the Utah Legislature in 2008, won't be up for re-election to her state Senate seat until 2016.