Mayor Jack Thomas has publicly backed a Democrat from North Ogden in the contest for the party's nomination in the 1st Congressional District, making the endorsement over a Snyderville Basin Democrat who was the party's candidate in the 2012.
The Peter Clemens campaign announced the mayor's endorsement weeks before the congressional candidacies can be formalized. Clemens is competing against Donna McAleer for the party's nomination. McAleer, a Pinebrook resident, was routed in the 2012 campaign against the incumbent, Republican Rep. Rob Bishop.
"Jack Thomas is a very respected man," Clemens said in an interview, adding, "Jack and I have been talking for quite some time about Park City and my run for Congress."
Clemens said he has known Thomas for a year or so and they have met at a few events in Park City. One of the events was a Democratic gathering that featured Howard Dean, a former governor of Vermont who unsuccessfully sought the party's White House nomination in 2004.
Clemens said he and Thomas agree on a range of issues, including smart growth, the smart development of transportation and maintaining affordable housing. Clemens described a transit platform that further links the Park City area with the Wasatch Front, first by expanding bus service using environmentally friendlier vehicles. Eventually, he said, a light rail line linking the Park City area and Salt Lake will probably be explored.
The two also agree on the need to combat a warming planet. Clemens said Park City's future as a mountain resort hinges on the ability to fight climate change and added he and Thomas want to protect open space and the outdoors industry as well.
In a prepared statement announcing the endorsement from Thomas, the Clemens campaign noted Thomas' longtime ties to Park City and the mayor's work as an architect. The campaign calls Thomas a "great Utah" visionary and says Clemens will work with Thomas "to unseat Congressman Bishop this November." The prepared statement also included the endorsement of philanthropist Bruce Bastian.
"Park City Mayor Jack Thomas ran on a platform of opening up the city's decision making process and making sure that Park City can grow in a way to make it stay attractive to new residents while also maintaining its small town charm. I couldn't agree more and can't wait to work with him," Clemens said in the prepared statement.
The mayor's office in Park City is a nonpartisan position. Thomas rarely discusses party politics. The endorsement is perhaps the highest-profile statement by Thomas outside of City Hall issues since he took office in early January.
"They asked me and I said I would," Thomas said in an interview.
The Clemens-McAleer contest will not be formalized until March, during the window when candidates must file their campaign paperwork. It is not known if other Democrats will also compete for the 1st Congressional District nomination.
The eventual winner will challenge Bishop in November in what is expected to be a difficult task for the Democratic candidate in a heavily Republican district. McAleer in 2012 lost the campaign to Bishop by nearly 47 percentage points. She won Summit County but lost the rest of the district in lopsided fashion as Bishop won a sixth term.
McAleer said she did not talk to Thomas prior to his public backing of Clemens. She said she "would have loved to have his endorsement." McAleer, though, said the campaign is about voters rather than the number of endorsements a candidate secures.