SALT LAKE CITY — A dozen contenders are duking it out at the state convention for Utah Republicans, vying to take the place of GOP Rep. Rob Bishop, who is retiring from his seat in the 1st Congressional District and running for lieutenant governor on the Thomas Wright ticket.
Virtual voting for the primary by delegates will conclude 5 p.m. Saturday in a ranked-choice voting procedure that replaces rounds of voting, which means the lowest vote-getter drops off the list. If one candidate can secure 60% of the votes, they will earn a place on the ballot. If not, the top two move on for the next fight.
Both Katie Witt and Bob Stevenson have already secured a place on the ballot, having gathered the necessary signatures, but they are working the virtual crowd of delegates during the online convention, hoping to gain more support.
One candidate, however, pointed out it is wrong for Witt and Stevenson to try to get delegate votes because they are already on the ballot and those delegate votes should go to others fighting for the chance.
Witt explained her decision to get delegate support.
“I’m talking with delegates because I enjoy and appreciate them while the other candidates are hounding delegates because they have to,” she said. “These are my kind of people and they represent northern Utah’s pioneers and patriots.”
Stevenson said his decision to seek delegate votes is simple: “My goal is to get on the ballot so I am going to do both.”
Two Democrats are also in the mix, fighting for delegate support at the state Democratic convention, which will also be done online. They are Jamie Cheek and Darren Parry.
The stoked up political interest in the 1st District comes after Bishop, the state’s longest-serving member of the delegation, announced he would not seek a ninth term — leaving the seat open for the first time since the 2002 election.
Bishop wielded power over public lands issues and other critical challenges facing many states in the West during his tenure as chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. He was appointed chairman in 2014, but as ranking member four years later, he announced his intent to retire in a promise he said he made to voters.
Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute at the University of Utah, said the 1st District race is attracting so many candidates because the seat has been a stronghold for incumbents since 1970, with only three people who have represented it since then: Gunn McKay, a Democrat who lost his bid for a sixth term to Republican James Hansen, who then left the seat after 22 years to run for governor. Rob Bishop is leaving after 18 years.
Perry added that 1st District incumbents have not struggled to retain their seat, especially if they make protection of Hill Air Force Base their top priority because it is so important to northern Utah.
“Incumbents have been really strong in the 1st District so now. you have a lot of candidates who have been waiting their turn to finally have a chance,” Perry said.
Here’s a look at the GOP contenders:
Howard Wallack, a Summit County resident, describes himself as political outsider and adopted the slogan: More solutions, less politics.
He transformed a small trucking company into a regional carrier and was appointed to serve as member of the National Motor Carrier Advisory Committee.
“We need leaders with serious business experience who understand how to reduce taxes and regulations wisely to create jobs and fuel our economy,” he said in his videotaped speech posted on the Utah Republican Party’s website.
Wallack added he is proudly pro-Trump and in favor of individual rights.
“All our rights are under attack not because of a virus but because a small group of elites think they can make decisions better than we can. That is not going to fly, not under my watch.”
Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt said northern Utah has an amazing opportunity to send a conservative to Congress, and it is her. Her slogan is “Pioneers and Patriots With Katie Witt.”
“I am running for Congress because we need to preserve freedom, expand opportunity and reignite American patriotism,” she said.
She noted she was the first candidate to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which means she will not vote to raise taxes.
Witt describes herself as “pro-life, pro-gun, pro-Trump, pro-you.”
In other areas of national concern, she noted: “On immigration, we need the will, the wall and the way to fix our broken borders. “
Tina Cannon is in her second term as a Morgan County Council member and owns an accounting firm.
“Now more than ever, Washington needs a good accountant,” she said, emphasizing her experience in the business world.
Cannon stressed her support for the U.S. Constitution, federalism and the need for local control. Additionally, there should be reduced taxation and fewer regulations to stimulate the manufacturing industry, she noted.
“I stand for conservative principles because the American experiment is the greatest success story of all time,” citing the ingenuity and drive of the free market system.
“We need leaders that have the qualifications to handle the (coronavirus) crisis we are faced with,” she said, pointing out she is that leader for the 1st District. “With your vote, you will send me to Washington to guide us through this crisis.”
Zach Hartman, 42, is a Park City-area resident who describes himself as a deficit hawk.
He is managing director of the Land Advisors Association, a nationwide team of advisory and brokerage services for land acquisition and development.
Hartman emphasized his experience in creating jobs, capital investment and economic growth.
“Land is my passion,” he said.
When it comes to the response to the coronavirus pandemic by government officials, Hartman said there has been excessive intrusion by shutting down business and shutting down people’s rights.
“It is not acceptable,” he said, adding that “the more government gets out of our lives, the better we will do as Americans.”
He said if he were elected, he would be there to support the personal freedoms of Americans.
Catherine Brenchley Hammon is a former school teacher and a homemaker. She said now more than ever, President Donald Trump needs the support of the American people.
Hammon, pointing to suicides, overdoses, mass shootings and homelessness, said the “family” needs to be part of the U.S. Constitution. Her Family First Amendment would strengthen the family unit.
“Family life and family government built our republic and must be revived.”
Hammon said President Abraham Lincoln needed a constitutional amendment to stop a bad thing — slavery.
“Our generation can revive a good thing, the family.”
Hammon is in favor of term limits and restricting the age at which people can run for a national office.
Pointing to her own situation as a grandmother to 10, she told delegates she would be the best choice because she can’t hold that congressional seat very long.
Blake David Moore is from Ogden and is a former U.S. foreign service officer. This is his first run at political office and he works as a partner in a management consulting firm.
Moore cited his decade of experience in management consulting helping to grow both small and large companies. Additionally, he stressed he is the only candidate with both domestic and foreign experience, knowing the threat that other countries pose, as well as the growing socialist movement in this country.
“There is a lack of conservative leadership to inspire the next generation and fight this crippling ideology. I am the candidate who can represent what made our country great and I am the candidate who can ensure conservative values have a strong future in America.”
Moore said he would fight to protect the future of Hill Air Force Base, knowing its important role in the 1st District.
“I know what that means to our community and I can commit to ensuring its future,” he said.
Kerry W. Gibson is a dairy farmer, former Utah state lawmaker, former Weber County commissioner and also served as commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
“Now is not the time for on-the-job training,” Gibson said, pointing to the imploding economy and the chance it provides for the growth of “big” government programs and efforts to take away individual rights.
“Having been through the “Refiner’s Fire,” you can trust that I bring stable hands to unstable times. Facing an uncertain future, I am asking that you put your trust in my record.”
As a fifth-generation dairy farmer, Gibson said, he has a “real understanding that the actions we take today will impact generations to come ... I want to serve because my experience taught me we have a debt to future generations.”
Gibson told delegates: “I ask for the opportunity to put my experience as a conservative fighter to the test.”
Mark R. Shepherd is a two-term Clearfield mayor who also served six years on the City Council and before that on the planning commission.
“We have the freedom to take responsibility for what happens next,” Shepherd said, describing the nation’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. “I look at this as the first act, that we the people must take to protect and defend what is important to us, to our families and our communities.”
Shepherd cited other challenges he will tackle if elected, including the increasing deficit, unbridled spending, aging infrastructure and assaults on gun rights.
“I will be transparent and communicative in all that I do.”
Bob Stevenson, former twice-elected Layton mayor and a current Davis County commissioner, cites his experience in public office as a reason for delegate support.
“Believe me there is nothing that better prepares you to serve in Congress than serving in local government as you are expected to solve problems, and to manage your city and or county in a cost effective, least intrusive and most cost effective manner.”
That experience will help him to fight on behalf of Hill Air Force Base, having served on various military-related boards.
“I know who to talk to and I know what to do.”
While mayor, he said the city cut taxes while balancing budgets and maintaining services. Davis County, too, has refrained from raising taxes.
The country will need proven leadership to navigate the coronavirus crisis, he said, and fight the socialist agenda in Congress.
Doug Durbano, a small-business owner and constitutional attorney, said his No. 1. principle is to reenthrone the U.S. Constitution.
“Every decision I make as an elected official will be screened through the Constitution,” he said.
Durbano added he wants to fight against big money, corruption and the swamp. In that vein, he said his campaign only accepts donations of $200 or less and only from the 1st District. No money is accepted from political action committees, he said.
“We own are allegiance only to the people, not to the big money.”
Durbano said his campaign decided to stick to the convention-only route because the signature gathering process depends on those big contributions he wanted to avoid.
JC DeYoung, whose slogan is “Freedom Rings Now,” said her values stem from growing up in a Republican family.
“I am here because I am concerned about the future of our country. I am here to say no to socialism, open borders, Common Core, no to the liberal agenda, no to handouts that destroy a person’s dignity, no to disparagement of conservatives.”
DeYoung has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s.
She said she is in the race to stand up for conservative values including a strong military, veterans, immigration reform, constitutional rights, constitutional carry, privacy, less government, deregulation and state-controlled lands.
“I am here to tell you that in Congress, I will fight for you and constitutional rights like you have never seen to win,” she said.
Chadwick Fairbanks is a veteran of U.S. Army intelligence and former civilian contractor to the National Security Agency and has challenged Bishop before.
“I am running for a third time in a row because I am trying to save this constitutional republic as it is on its last leg,” he said. “You see our republic is under attack like never before because of this global, government exercise that is COVID-19.”
He said he believes the pandemic is actually biological warfare and the United States is likely to respond with nuclear weapons.
“I have the strategic acumen, bravado, international geopolitical experience and understanding to navigate these tremendous times in human history,” he said. “Delegates, you need to send a winter soldier to Congress and not another schoolteacher, attorney or local politician in order that all the facts get debated, the traitors flushed out and the president fully supported and nuclear war is averted if possible.”
He added he is the only candidate that can return public lands to Utah, stop gerrymandering and defeat “deep state” bureaucrats.
The primary also attracted two Democratic contenders who want the chance to represent the 1st District: Darren Perry and Jaime Cheek.
Darren Parry, chairman of the Shoshone Nation, is a lifelong resident of the 1st District.
He cited his heritage and how his people feel the land is something more than a place to live, it’s sacred.
“That is why as your congressman, I will work hard every day to make climate change an urgent priority. This isn’t a Republican problem. It’s not a Democrat problem. It is an American problem, where everyone has a role to play.”
Parry said he would also fight to protect public lands.
“Utah’s public lands have been and always will be our greatest treasure,”
On immigration, he was critical of the effort to tighten the borders.
“When the pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley, they were welcomed by my people,” he said. “Today we welcome those who enter our country with metal cages ... We can do better, we’ve got to be better.”
Parry also stressed his support for affordable health care, protecting Social Security benefits for the elderly and fighting for Hill Air Force Base for its national security role and its economic importance to residents of Weber and Davis counties.
Jamie Cheek is an Ogden resident who works in the vocational rehabilitation field.
She said she’s been a Democrat since she first registered to vote and launched her campaign in September.
Cornerstones of her platform include ensuring affordable health care for everyone, noting 1 in 10 people in the 1st District don’t have access to health care because they can’t afford their insurance.
Air quality is another major concern, as well as investing in education and the working class.
“And finally, we need to give power back to the people because government should work as well for you as a political donor. It’s time to give every American a seat at the table, end the corruption and build a government that works for the working class.”