Democrat versus Democrat, live at the Santy Auditorium |

Democrat versus Democrat, live at the Santy Auditorium

Jay Hamburger The Park Record

The two Democrats seeking the party’s congressional nomination in the district that includes Park City and surrounding Summit County are scheduled to hold a debate in Park City on Monday as they prepare for a primary election later in June.

It will be a rare opportunity for Parkites to attend a local congressional-level debate. People seeking offices in the House of Representatives and the Senate occasionally make campaign stops in the area, but it is uncommon for them to hold a debate in Park City or Summit County. Political observers were unsure when the last congressional debate in Park City was held.

Donna McAleer, a Pinebrook resident, is competing against Ryan Combe, who is from South Ogden City, for the Democratic nomination. Neither was able to garner enough support at the state Democratic convention to secure the nod, forcing them into a primary election on June 26.

McAleer has a military, not-for-profit and management background. Combe has a diverse business resume. Both of them are expected to perform well in their home counties, but it is difficult to project their support elsewhere in the 1st District. The district stretches over a large swath of northern Utah.

The debate is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. in the Santy Auditorium at the Park City Library and Education Center. The candidates will deliver short opening statements and then answer questions from a media panel. The Summit County Democratic Party is hosting the debate. It is the first of four debates throughout the district, Glenn Wright, the chairman of the local Democratic Party, said.

Wright said he hopes the Santy Auditorium, which has seats for 448 people, is filled for the debate. He said neither of the candidates is well known to voters and the appearance in Park City provides them an opportunity to make inroads in the area.

"This will be an entrée to the voter. It’s a leg up getting some recognition for the general election," Wright said.

Some of the issues Wright hopes are discussed on Monday include energy policy, the national debt, the economy, taxes, public lands and the future of Hill Air Force Base, which is a major employer in the district.

The leader of the Summit County Republican Party, Henry Glasheen, said he plans to attend the debate as well. He said he wants to listen to the Democrats’ economic platform, including details about the federal budget and entitlement reform. He has met McAleer a few times but has not met Combe.

"I think Donna is one of the best Democratic candidates we’ve had in a while," Glasheen said, calling her a moderate with conservative leanings in fiscal matters but saying that he supports the Republican incumbent.

The candidate who emerges with the Democratic nomination will likely have difficulty on Election Day in November in the heavily GOP district. Rob Bishop, the Republican who holds the seat, is seeking his sixth term. He has had little difficulty dispatching the Democratic challengers he has faced in the previous elections.

The rest of the primary season and the fall campaign will almost certainly stress economic issues as voters continue to worry about their financial health and that of the nation. Other topics that the candidates will likely address in the coming months include public lands, military engagements and health care. Many voters in Summit County will want to learn about the candidates’ opinions about a proposal to connect Canyons and Solitude Mountain Resort with a gondola, something that would require federal approval.

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