Donna McAleer, the Pinebrook Democrat whose lopsided loss in the 1st Congressional District campaign in 2012 epitomized a difficult Election Day for the state party, on Friday began a second bid for the seat.
McAleer is the second Democrat in the 1st Congressional District contest, joining North Ogden physician Peter Clemens. The Democrats will decide the candidate through either convention balloting or a primary election. The Democrat will face Congressman Rob Bishop, the Republican incumbent, in November 2014.
"It's an embarrassment of riches," Jim Dabakis, the chairman of the Utah Democratic Party, said about the two candidates, noting McAleer's military background and Clemens' medical career.
Dabakis does not anticipate another Democrat entering the campaign in the 1st Congressional District. He said either of the Democrats could beat Bishop, linking the incumbent to the shutdown of the federal government and saying the Republican Party has "no idea how big a hornet's nest they've stepped in" with the shutdown.
McAleer will again be of special interest to Park City and surrounding Summit County. It is rare for a congressional candidate to hail from Park City. She proved popular in Summit County during the 2012 campaign, but she was overwhelmed in more populous areas of the 1st District.
Bishop routed McAleer in the district-wide tally, winning a little more than 71 percent of the vote to McAleer's nearly 24.7 percent. McAleer, though, took Summit County on Election Day.
The presence of Mitt Romney at the top of the GOP ticket in 2012 made Election Day especially difficult for Utah Democrats. Romney remains popular in Utah from his days leading the 2002 Winter Olympics.
In a prepared statement announcing her campaign, McAleer sharply criticized the government shutdown, calling the closure "an embarrassment to the entire nation."
"This is the second time in less than eight months that Bishop's votes have caused pain and suffering furloughing civilian workers at Hill AFB," she said, adding that the shutdown has impacted families, people enrolled in the Women, Infants and Children assistance program and the state economy. "Those elected by the people to represent us have failed on their most basic duty -- to ensure the nation continues to function."
McAleer is an Army veteran who served at the end of the Cold War and is a graduate of West Point. Her professional background is in business and not-for-profit management. She campaigned in 2012 on a broad platform that encompassed the economy and the fiscal situation in Washington, D.C. Her opposition to SkiLink, an idea to connect Canyons Resort and Solitude with a gondola, was notable to voters in Summit County and Salt Lake County.
Clemens is 58 years old and said in an interview "dysfunctionality" in Congress is at its highest level. He said he would work with business leaders to create jobs in the 1st Congressional District while not harming the quality of life. He said job creation in the high tech and renewable energy sectors is of interest to him. Clemens said he would be "heavily invested" in passing clean air legislation.
"I'd certainly be reaching across the aisle to Republican colleagues," Clemens said.
Clemens in 2012 was defeated in District 19 of the Utah Senate, a district that includes part of Summit County. The Republican incumbent, Sen. Allen Christensen, won with 61 percent of the vote throughout the district. Clemens' results in Summit County were his best, losing the county by 57 votes.