54th District Rep. Kraig Powell (R-Heber City) will have an opponent in this November's election. Summit County Democratic Party Chair Glenn Wright, who also ran against 53rd District Rep. Melvin Brown in 2010, will vie for the legislative seat.
"The main reason I'm running is because this state needs an effective two-party system," Wright said. "With the gerrymandering that occurred after the 2010 Census, the 54th District is attainable for a Democrat."
Wright said some of the main issues he will be campaigning on include education, the environment and income inequality. What put him "over the edge" in choosing to run was Powell's decision to sign the amicus order supporting Utah Constitutional Amendment 3 in the 10th District Court, which defines marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman.
"It's a human rights issue that I have to draw [the line on]. The country is moving forward on that issue," Wright said, regarding the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage.
In the realm of the environment, Wright said Utah's environmental regulations are "abysmal" and that members of the State Legislature are "not willing to offend their large donors who are in the polluting industries" by pursuing, for instance, clean air bills.
Allowing the Utah Division of Air Quality to set more stringent air quality standards than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows would be an important step, Wright said, which is what Rep. Rebecca Edwards' (R-North Salt Lake) H.B. 121 would do, as would Rep. Gene Davis' (D-Salt Lake City) S.B. 164.
Wright does support Powell's H.B. 110, which would allow a city or county to contract for renewable energy on behalf of its residents. H.B. 110 was sent to the House Rules Committee for interim study and will be worked on during the year.
"I think what we need to do is figure out what it is in the structure of Rocky Mountain Power and the Utah Public Service Commission that controls the rate structure," Wright said. "The lowest [energy] cost is good for the consumer, but what are the effects on the environment?"
Finding ways to encourage Utahns to use mass transit is also imperative, Wright said, as is finding transit solutions to address the growing populations in Heber City and Kamas that commute to the Park City area.
"When it's busy [in the Park City area], we can't take any more cars," Wright said.
Wright also hopes to tackle campaign finance reform. He said Utah has "inherent, legalized corruption" because of the ways in which elections are financed.
Regarding Powell's sponsored H.B. 237, which would prohibit state legislative, judicial and school board candidates from accepting more than $9,999 in contributions from a single individual or source, Wright said such a law would not have much of an impact.
"If you raise $30,000 to $40,000 for a [State] House race, you're doing fine," Wright said, adding that a $9,999 individual contribution cap is "no big deal."
Wright was also incensed over Utah's uncertainty over whether to expand Medicaid. He said the expansion should be "an absolute no-brainer," that it would cover more than 120,000 people and would bring in $400 to $600 million as well as create additional jobs. He then summed up his campaign's message.
"We can do better in this state, we can do better for this population and we can do better for our environment," Wright said. "We need to have a viable two-party system in this state."