Congressional contest: interest keen with Basin Democrat running |

Congressional contest: interest keen with Basin Democrat running

The spotlight was on the top of the tickets in the last two weeks as President Obama and Mitt Romney accepted their parties’ nominations for the White House.

Over the next two months, voters in Park City and surrounding Summit County will also follow the campaigns for Congress. The interest locally this year could be especially keen as a candidate from the Snyderville Basin challenges for a seat in the House of Representatives and Parkites focus on a congressional proposal with considerable ramifications on the state’s ski industry.

Rep. Rob Bishop, the Republican incumbent in the 1st Congressional District, faces a challenge from Pinebrook Democrat Donna McAleer. She brings a background as a not-for-profit executive and as an Army officer. In the Senate campaign, the Republican incumbent, Orrin Hatch, is opposite Democrat Scott Howell.

It is extraordinarily rare for a Park City-area candidate like McAleer to win a party’s nomination in a congressional-level campaign. McAleer has said she sees a balanced budget as being critical and has said she would support a measure withholding congressional salaries until one is reached. She wants the federal government to consider both taxes and expenses in attempting to balance the budget.

McAleer also touts her military experience. She is a graduate of the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and served in the Army in Germany at the time of reunification. She has said her time in the Army separates her from many members of Congress and said early in the campaign military force should be the "tool of last resort."

Bishop, meanwhile, is seeking his sixth term. He is from Brigham City and served in the state Legislature before he won the congressional seat. Bishop is proud of his conservative record, but he is not nearly as popular in Park City and Summit County as he is elsewhere in the district.

In an appearance in Park City in the spring, Bishop spoke to a crowd that seemed largely in opposition to his conservative ideals. Bishop, however, has made progress at City Hall, where Park City leaders have long said relations are solid with the congressman’s office.

Bishop in the next two months will tout his record in Congress, including his longstanding support of Hill Air Force Base. The base is an important employer in the state. He will also likely promote the Republican economic platform.

The congressional district is heavily Republican and Bishop has easily dispatched his Democratic opponents since his arrival in Washington, D.C. McAleer will likely have her best showing in Summit County, where only a small percentage of the district’s population resides. She will need to make considerable inroads elsewhere in the district to make the campaign competitive.

The discussion between the two about the SkiLink legislation will be of note to voters in Summit County. Bishop is the sponsor in the House of Representatives. He wants the federal government to sell 30 acres of land to Canyons needed to build a gondola linking Canyons and Solitude. He sees a link as something that would boost the state’s ski industry and cut traffic.

Environmentalists and backcountry enthusiasts are outraged with the idea, claiming that SkiLink would put more people into the mountains between the Park City area and Big Cottonwood Canyon. They also worry about effects on the quality of drinking water and wonder whether claims that SkiLink would reduce traffic are valid.

Bishop and McAleer have starkly different positions on SkiLink. McAleer has sharply criticized the idea as being something that "puts profits ahead of the people," as she said during a June debate in Park City against her challenger in the primary election.

In the Senate campaign, Democrat Scott Howell is challenging the Republican incumbent, Orrin Hatch. The senator is seeking his seventh term. He is the sponsor of the SkiLink bill in the Senate. Hatch emerged from the primary with his party’s nomination, fending off a challenge from the right.

Howell, meanwhile, once served in the state Senate and unsuccessfully challenged Hatch in the 2000 Senate campaign. He spent his career as an IBM sales executive. He has said his business background prepares him to handle the economic challenges the nation faces.

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