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Utah Democrats tap Cottonwood Heights MD to vie for Chaffetz' seat

OGDEN — Utah Democrats overwhelmingly nominated a well-funded Cottonwood Heights doctor Saturday to represent them in the 3rd Congressional District special election.

Kathie Allen beat out two other candidates who filed to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who is resigning June 30.

"I'm delighted. I've been working on this since February, and I think I have the right message for this district, I have the right work ethic and I'm ready to kick it up to the next level," she said.

Democratic delegates also chose Daisy Thomas as the new Utah Democratic Party leader during its convention at Weber State University. Peter Corroon did not seek re-election after three years as chairman.

Thomas, a 37-year-old mother of three who used to home-school her children, said her goal is to bring more Utahns into the party and get Democrats elected.

"We need to strengthen the internal structure of this party because we can bring as many people as we want but if we're not solid, they'll drop right back out," she said. "Everyone has to have a place and everyone has to feel that they're welcome here, and that's what I'm going to be working on."

Delegates elected Allen in one round of voting with nearly 76 percent of the vote, easily giving her the nomination over progressive political activist Ben Frank and environmental advocate Carl Ingwell.

Allen, 64, first launched her bid for Chaffetz’s seat after the Utah representative told CNN that poor Americans might have to sacrifice their iPhones for better health care coverage. Allen, who has been featured in the national media, saw her Crowdpac contributions soar after the congressman's comment. She now has more than $650,000 in campaign funds.

"We kept raising money after that statement and we kept raising money after he dropped out, so I think people just find our message is something that resonates," she said.

Allen said she has "progressive values" when it comes to public education, public lands and supporting immigrants. She said she wants ethics back in government and to promote health care for everyone.

Chaffetz's unexpected resignation put her campaign into "hyperdrive," Allen said, adding she anticipated challenging him in 2018.

"In a way it's been good because I've learned a lot about being a candidate. It's like I've been on an advanced placement track," she said.

Though a first-time candidate, Allen is familiar with politics. She worked as a congressional aide to Rep. Shirley Pettis, R-Calif., and she spent time as a community development coordinator in San Bernardino County, California.

Because no Democrats submitted voter signatures to force a primary election, Allen will go directly to the general election ballot. She will face the winner among a trio of Republicans — Alpine attorney Tanner Ainge, Provo Mayor John Curtis and former state legislator Chris Herrod — engaged in a primary election.

"I don't think I'll have any trouble keeping in the public eye" during the GOP primary, she said. "But one thing I will be doing is working super hard while they're trying to figure out who their nominee is. I will be introducing myself to the community."

The race for party chairman caused some discord among Democtrats. Nine candidates filed for the post but longtime party member and local officer Rob Miller dropped out last week after being accused of sexual impropriety. Miller, seen as a frontrunner, renounced his party membership.

"Staying above it has really helped because I don't think we need to tear each other down," Thomas said. "This has been a real learning experience for me that I can stand on just who I am as a person."