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Opinion: I can’t vote for her, but we need Darlene McDonald in congress

Darlene McDonald is the candidate we need in the House of Representatives. New district maps mean I can’t vote for her — but those in district 4 can

SHARE Opinion: I can’t vote for her, but we need Darlene McDonald in congress
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Darlene McDonald, founder of 1Utah Project, speaks during a Concerned Coalition Public Health Rally at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, where participants demanded partisan politics be removed from Utah’s public health policies.

Mengshin Lin, Deseret News

I was disappointed for multiple reasons when the Utah state Legislature’s new district maps were announced. One reason was that I was no longer on Utah’s Fourth congressional district after many years of being there. And that was disappointing because it meant I would not be able to vote for an extraordinary, once-in-a-generation leader to represent us in the U.S. House of Representatives. So instead, I’m telling those who are in district four why they should consider voting for Darlene McDonald.

I first met McDonald in the summer of 2017 at a rally to protect coverage for preexisting conditions. As a kidney transplant recipient with two sons who were born with kidney issues, this is a deeply personal issue for me. McDonald spoke of her own experience as the mother of a son with a heart condition, and I don’t recall ever being more moved by someone’s words.

Over time I have come to know McDonald as one of the most committed, intelligent and compassionate people I have ever had the privilege to call a friend. Late last year, when my family experienced a family tragedy, Darlene reached out and showed so much love and support for my wife, my children and me. Because that’s who she is. McDonald genuinely cares about her fellow human beings in a way that I, as a person of faith, can only call Christlike. McDonald truly cares for her fellow human beings, and I believe that’s a value that is sadly lacking in both our society and in those who represent us.

As someone who has had the opportunity to testify to a congressional committee, and who has contacted Utah’s members of congress repeatedly to express my views, I can tell you that members of congress are better at talking than listening. That’s something that would be very different with McDonald as a representative of her district. She listens, and she listens to understand. McDonald has an extensive knowledge of policy issues that never ceases to amaze me. She would bring a wide and deep knowledge of many issues to Congress, and a commitment to Utah and Utah families. But she’s also very open to new ideas and other people’s experiences. And she uses that knowledge to form good policy ideas. Her commitment to family includes plans to help improve access to maternal health care and get Utah mothers the help they need for both their physical and mental health. Issues like this are the heart of being pro-family, not empty posturing about wedge issues that only serves to further divide us.

McDonald moved to Utah in 2002, which means she’s lived here long enough to know our state and its people, and that she chose to make her home here. I’ve seen her drive to improve our communities compel her to speak out and get involved in so many issues in the past five years, and I’ve witnesses her ability to work with a broad range of people of different backgrounds, circumstances and beliefs to get things done. She is in politics for the right reasons: She wants to make things better for all of us, not raise her own profile for personal gain. She is the type of honest, integrous and fundamentally decent person we need in congress. 

Through her connection to and understanding of Utah’s minority communities, McDonald would bring what I consider a badly needed new perspective to Utah’s sometimes ideologically narrow congressional delegation. She’d be a voice for those who are lacking one. But make no mistake, her commitment to helping our minority communities and those most in need does not make her less concerned or compassionate for the rest of us. She’d bring a passion for making sure that liberty and justice for all truly means for all of us. She’d bring an understanding of American history and a willingness to face and learn from both our brightest and darkest moments.

I don’t get to vote for McDonald, but I endorse her with full enthusiasm and implore the voters of the fourth congressional district to visit votedarlene.com and look at her platform. And please consider voting to elect one of the finest members of congress ever to represent Utah.

Paul Gibbs is an independent filmmaker and health care activist from West Valley City, Utah.