If Peter Clemens wins the Democratic nomination in the 1st Congressional District, he is ready to engage the incumbent Republican congressman on a range of issues.
Rob Bishop is not attuned to voters' issues and their opinions, Clemens said in a Friday interview while stumping in the Snyderville Basin. He said Bishop listens only to a "very narrow group of people."
"I think that there are a lot of people who see Congressman Bishop as being disinterested and uncooperative, and I don't think that a person can remain in office forever with those attributes," Clemens said.
The Clemens event, held in the auditorium of the Summit County Library branch at Kimball Junction, drew a sparse crowd of just a few people. Clemens decorated the room with campaign signs, and T-shirts and buttons were available. He spoke at length with one of the people at the event.
In the interview, Clemens said there are stark differences between himself and Bishop. He claimed Bishop narrowly defines the role of the federal government. The incumbent, Clemens said, sees Washington's responsibility as national defense. He said Bishop does not see it being the role of Congress to reform immigration on a comprehensive basis.
"He talks about securing our borders and the conversation goes no further," Clemens said, adding, "Rob Bishop is nowhere to be seen or heard on this issue."
Clemens, a physician from North Ogden, focused on Bishop during the interview, but he must first face a competitor in the Democratic Party. Donna McAleer, a Snyderville Basin resident who was the party's nominee in 2012, is also seeking the nomination. He said he proved to be competitive in Summit County during an earlier state Senate campaign. He lost that election, but the results were closer locally than elsewhere in the district. Clemens is also pleased with early high-profile endorsements like that of Jack Thomas, the mayor of Park City.
Clemens said he has built strong support from Weber County. He said he also has backing from federal employees like those working for the IRS and at Hill Air Force Base, a major employer in the congressional district.
"Obviously, we'll need to expand that to include moderate Republicans and independents. But I think that a lot of people look at Congressman Bishop, rightly, as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. It will be our job to make that case," Clemens said.
It was the first major Clemens event in the Park City area. The campaign beforehand indicated it anticipated upward of 40 people would attend, far more than did. The contest for the Democratic nomination will intensify in the coming months as the candidates formally start their campaigns in March.
Clemens and McAleer will attempt to win the nomination at the party's state convention in April. If neither of them captures enough support at the convention, they will face each other in a June primary for the right to be the party's nominee on Election Day in November.
The Democratic winner is expected to have a difficult time unseating Bishop in the heavily Republican congressional district.
Other issues that Clemens addressed in an interview included:
Clemens said the state economy has generally been stronger than the national one for the past 30 years.
"I have to give credit where credit is due to whoever it was who was in the 1st District. Interestingly, if you look at economic issues in the 1st District, most of the large economic employers and drivers of the economy in the 1st District came into the 1st District during Democratic administrations," Clemens said, referring to times when a Democrat held the congressional seat he is seeking, adding, "I think Rob Bishop has, frankly, has reaped the benefits of Democratic heavy lifting."
"I think the U.S. needs to play the role of being supportive of anything that ends the violence and bloodshed in the Ukraine and moves the country toward greater stability," he said. "But I think we have to understand that in that place in the world we don't have the influence that the EU has or that Russia has, who are basically playing tug of war with the Ukraine."