October 1, 2008
There is no doubt about the significance of the election this year. The seriousness of global and national events demand our attention and participation, and rightly so.
What can easily get lost in the shadow of the national stage, however, are our state level elections. Some of us who think more progressively may even be tempted to turn our attention from the State House altogether because it has been dominated by one-party rule for so long. Sometimes we feel that we can have more impact at the county and local level than to address the single-party, veto-proof, Republican super-majority under the capitol dome in Salt Lake.
We cannot afford to do this. The truth is that the vast majority of governance under which we toil originates at the State House. Education of our children is defined and funded at the state level. Laws affecting such basics as water sources, energy sources and whatever these basics will cost us are decided by the Legislature. Our access to health care is a state issue. Creation of jobs and conditions of our employment are state issues. The laws that direct our rapid growth and development, and even our access to and enjoyment of the beautiful hills in which we live are written at the state level, binding whatever good intentions may come at the county or local level.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is critical that we bring balance back to the state legislature. This is in the interest of all Utahns, regardless of political leanings. A single party system leads to extremism and abuse as we have seen over and over at the State House in recent times. How often have we seen examples of "public service for private gain?" Without a political opposition of any power, who is to stop the private agendas of some lawmakers? If the Democratic Party can pick up just a few seats this election, the super-majority can be wiped out. Should the super-majority be eliminated, a return to accountability and moderation will soon follow.
Things can change, and have already started to do so. The Democrats are running excellent, moderate candidates for the Legislature from St.George to Provo, from Weber County to Wasatch County. Kathy Lofft in District 53, which represents Morgan, Coalville, Oakley, Kamas, and Park City, is a prime example. Having extensive experience in legislation, and having been trained as a lawyer, Kathy Lofft could be of great service to the people of Utah. We cannot afford to overlook the opportunity to elect such fine candidates this time around. The moderate voices of Morgan, Summit, and Wasatch counties need to be counted among those that would restore order on Capitol Hill.
We write to urge you to pay attention to the State House and Senate elections in your local area. Given all we have seen in recent times, and the critical nature of this election, we urge you to vote for a Democrat for the legislature this year, even if you’ve never considered such a thing before. One-party politics is choking our democracy in Utah like never before. Extremism is never good. We need openness and accountability in a government that makes such crucial decisions. A one-party system that can silence the opposition at every whim, rarely finds that it needs to be accountable to anyone.
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Read the papers. Study the issues. Follow with diligence the presidential election as is our duty and privilege as Americans. But be mindful of the other elections, the ones for the state legislature; as there our future will be determined with clearer impact after the national media have ceased their focus on Obama and McCain.
Stephen Owens is a lawyer active in a variety of community, religious, and political causes. Jan Graham practices law as the head of Graham Law Offices, and is a former two-term Utah attorney general. Joe Tesch is senior partner at Tesch law offices in Park City. Among many civic activities, Mr Tesch was formerly elected county attorney for Wasatch County. Elizabeth "Lisa" Peck is a lawyer in private practice and co-director of Park City’s Tuesday Night Bar program, a once-per-month free legal clinic for Summit County residents.