Park City Democrat launches congressional campaign outside home district
A Park City woman is running for Congress, but her friends who live in the city will not be able to cast a vote supporting her campaign.
Charlene Albarran, a Democrat, lives in the Aspen Springs neighborhood and has lived in Park City for 10 years. Albarran, though, is competing in the 2nd Congressional District, a district that covers an expansive part of the western and southern portions of Utah reaching to the Nevada and Arizona state lines. The incumbent is Rep. Chris Stewart, a Republican. Laws allow someone to serve in Congress outside the district where they live. Park City is situated in the 1st Congressional District, represented by Republican Congressman Rob Bishop.
"I think we need to turn a red seat blue," Albarran said, noting that a Democrat, Jim Matheson, once held office in the 2nd Congressional District.
Albarran is 60 years old and has a background in business and philanthropy. She described a business career that has involved starting three companies, including an aviation-rental firm and a distributor of air filters. Her philanthropic work has included creating a foundation that supports the homeless in Mexico City and founding a safe home for homeless women in Salt Lake City.
She is fluent in Spanish and has lived in Mexico City. Locally she has been active in a foundation that supports the Park City Medical Center and has served on a homeowners association in Aspen Springs.
The congressional campaign is her first political experience. Albarran said the 2nd Congressional District is not properly represented by the incumbent. She said a large bloc of Democrats in the Salt Lake Valley reside in the district as well as many Latinos.
Albarran plans to mount a campaign with a platform that stresses education, employment and affordable healthcare, including promoting expanding Medicaid in Utah.
Education is her top priority, she said, mentioning the possibility of lowering the interest rates on student loans. Her employment platform plank includes a desire that women receive equal pay for equal work. She wants the federal minimum wage raised to $12 per hour, up from the current rate of $7.25 per hour, an increase of approximately 66 percent.
She said the United States is much better off than it was eight years ago, toward the end of the presidential administration of George W. Bush. She said the country is "very, very good right now," explaining that millions of jobs have been created, healthcare is more affordable and troops have been withdrawn.
Albarran, though, said partisanship has impeded progress in the country. She said partisanship, as an example, has been a detriment to the discussions about the federal minimum wage.
"In Congress, I believe, there’s a deadlock," she said. "This is one country. We have to unite."
The state Democratic Party said on Monday it is unaware of another Democrat seeking the nomination in the 2nd Congressional District. Stewart, a second-term incumbent, is seeking re-election.
Albarran’s campaign marks the third consecutive congressional election that will be of special note in the Park City area. Donna McAleer, a Democrat from Pinebrook, was the party’s nominee in the 1st Congressional District in 2014 and 2012. Congressman Rob Bishop, the incumbent Republican, routed McAleer in both of the elections, but there appeared to be wider interest in the campaigns in Park City and surrounding Summit County with McAleer on the ballot.
Glenn Wright, the chairman of the Summit County Democratic Party, said Stewart is vulnerable and the Democrat could take the 2nd Congressional District seat on Election Day. He has met Albarran and describes her as intelligent and driven with executive experience.
Wright said some of the success for a Democrat in the 2nd Congressional District this year depends on the Republican presidential nominee. A ballot with Donald Trump as the Republican at the top of the ticket would "activate (the) Hispanic vote in our favor," he said.
"If she runs a good race, she’s got definite possibilities there," Wright said.
Howard Wallack, a Park City Republican who unsuccessfully campaigned for the party’s nomination in the 2nd Congressional District in 2012, said it will be a difficult election for Albarran. He said there is only a small part of the district, in the Salt Lake Valley, that is reliably Democratic.
"It’s impossible. It’s not going to happen," Wallack said about the prospects of Albarran winning the congressional seat. "Most of the people in the 2nd District view Park City as an outsider."
City Hall has scheduled an event on Tuesday, May 21, designed for people who are contemplating a bid for elected office in the municipal campaign.