OGDEN — A rehabilitation counselor and debate coach from Ogden is the first Democrat to announce her candidacy for U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop’s seat in 2020.
Jamie Cheek this weekend joined two Republicans — two-term Morgan County councilwoman Tina Cannon and Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt — who have filed to run for the 1st Congressional District seat held by Bishop. Self-described constitutional conservative Cory Green announced earlier this month that he is also running for Bishop’s seat, but had not filed with the Federal Election Commission as of Monday.
The longtime Republican congressman confirmed in July that he would not seek reelection next year, but said he was considering a run for governor. Now Cheek is hoping to turn the seat blue, asking voters in the traditionally red district to look beyond the “D” next to her name.
“Especially in Utah, sometimes I think as soon as you say ‘Democrat’ or as soon as a Democrat hears ‘another Republican,’ we’ve made up our minds and we’re not willing to talk about the issues,” Cheek said in an interview Monday night.
In a YouTube video posted Sunday, she said she is running “because Utah deserves better than corporate apologist politicians working on behalf of a tiny, wealthy elite.”
Cheek lives in Ogden, according to her website, and works as a rehabilitation counselor and college debate coach in Box Elder and Cache counties. She has a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of Wyoming and a master’s in rehabilitation counseling from Utah State University, and is currently the district director overseeing all Utah State Office of Rehabilitation services north of Brigham City.
“I’ve been working with the state of Utah for about six years, so I understand how the legislative process gets translated into services and how that affects our clients every single day,” Cheek said in an interview. “I think it gives me a unique perspective on how things that matter get translated from big picture and how it trickles down.”
And as a debate coach and former college debater, she said she has learned how to see both sides of an issue: “Not just being against something to be against it, but to look at the merits of the issue and debate that rather than a knee-jerk reaction.”
Cheek was born and raised in Wyoming and moved to Utah nearly a decade ago. She describes herself as a former first-generation college student who grew up in a small, rural town, a background that has influenced her perspective on both higher education and rural issues.
“In the 1st District we’re very rural; we have a lot of farmers,” Cheek said. “And current policies are not helping our farmers. ... What we can do as representatives to help alleviate some of that pressure is talk about the issues rather than getting caught up in the politics of it, and listen to the voters to see what it is they need.”
Cheek’s website lists “fair pay for fair work,” healthcare as “a human right,” free college tuition, student loan debt forgiveness, “fight(ing) for a sustainable future,” and “end(ing) gerrymandering and voter suppression” as her top priorities.