In Park City stop, Democratic challenger Lee Castillo says Rob Bishop has lost touch with voters | ParkRecord.com

In Park City stop, Democratic challenger Lee Castillo says Rob Bishop has lost touch with voters

Lee Castillo, the Democratic candidates in the 1st Congressional District, speaks at a Park City event Monday. He told the audience the Republican incumbent, Rep. Rob Bishop, has lost touch with voters.

Lee Castillo, the Democrat challenging Rep. Rob Bishop in the 1st Congressional District, has a message for the Republican incumbent.

Bishop, he said, has lost touch with constituents, and he'll pay at the polls in November.

Castillo, a clinical social worker from Layton, made the remarks Monday to a crowd of about a dozen during a campaign stop at the Park City Library.

"All over the district, the comments are the same," he said. "They say he represents oil and gas and doesn't represent our values."

Castillo faces an uphill battle in the heavily Republican district. Democrats have traditionally done well in Summit County, but Bishop has relied on broad support in the district's population centers to dispatch challengers by wide margins. A third-party candidate, Eric Eliason of the United Utah Party, is also vying for the seat.

Castillo, though, said the dynamics of the race are different from what previous Democratic challengers have faced. Voters, he said, are frustrated with what he called Bishop's extraction industry-friendly environmental policies, as well as his unwillingness to stand up to President Trump when he has targeted groups like women, Mexicans and Muslims. He said Bishop has alienated voters on both sides of the aisle, creating an opening for a Democrat to pick up votes.

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Castillo told the audience his base is 90,000 strong, drawing support from Davis and Weber counties, in addition to Summit County. He anticipates the district will be part of a so-called blue wave nationally.

However, a poll released earlier this month by the Utah Debate Commission showed Bishop with a large lead. The Republican had the support of 51 percent of registered voters, while support for Castillo was pegged at 15.8 percent and at 6.6 percent for Eliason. Castillo questioned the accuracy of the poll because, he said, it didn't account for voters who will register in the weeks leading up to Election Day.

"With the help of the president and the lack of courage from our congressman, we continue to add support," he said.

Part of Castillo's platform is the protection of public lands. During the event, Castillo said his candidacy presents a stark contrast to Bishop, who wields an influential position as the chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Castillo supports returning Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Bears Ears National Monument to their previous size under President Obama, saying Bishop spearheaded the Republican movement in 2017 to reduce their acreage.

The candidate also outlined his support for a pair of ballot initiatives before Utah voters. He plans to vote for Proposition 2, which would legalize medical marijuana, because he said access to cannabis for people with health conditions can save lives.

If elected, he said he would seek to have marijuana reclassified as a Schedule 2 drug, a change that would acknowledge its medical uses.

He also will vote for Proposition 3, an initiative to expand Medicaid coverage beyond a plan the state Legislature passed this year. He said that, as a social worker, he sees the effect of a gap in the health care system firsthand, arguing that everyone should have access to affordable care.

Castillo said he supports a nationwide single-payer health care system.

"I don't care how we get there," he said. "There's common ground to get there and we need to do that."

The Democrat also responded to an audience question about how Eliason's presence on the ballot changes the race. Castillo said Eliason is more likely to peel off Republican voters than cull support from the Democratic base.