Parkites round out election field with candidates in three Statehouse races
Three districts in the Utah State Legislature that include Park City and surrounding areas will have Parkites mounting campaigns. A group of four candidates rounds out the field, which includes six Parkites in total, gunning for seats held by Rep. Tim Quinn and Rep. Logan Wilde, as well as Sen. Kevin Van Tassell’s recently vacated position.
Christopher Neville, the Jeremy Ranch-based owner of Mountain Insight, a software development firm, is the lone Democratic candidate for House District 53, a district covering much of Kimball Junction and eastern Summit County. Neville will face incumbent Rep. Logan Wilde, R-Croydon, in a race for the colossal district, which stretches from the Idaho border in the north to the Colorado border in the east.
“I plan on putting a lot of miles on my car,” Neville said. “There’s no other way to do it, really. I can’t pretend that I know everything that everyone in Morgan or Rich counties wants, but I certainly can listen to them and let them know that they’re being heard.”
Neville said one factor animating his run for the House is his desire to help shepherd Utah’s rapid growth, the third fastest in the country, “responsibly.”
“Protecting our air and water, making sure that all Utahns have access to that growth … and to make sure that our schools are given the resources they need so that our students are the ones in the future who are able to take advantage of that growth,” Neville said of his priorities.
With Wilde as his opponent, Neville said he’s looking forward to debating with the Republican incumbent.
Eileen Gallagher, a physician from Park City, is stepping up in the race for Senate District 26, which has a crowded Republican field that includes Parkite Jack Rubin after Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal, announced his departure from the Legislature earlier this year. Gallagher will also face Pat Vaughn, a former candidate for mayor of Midway, for the Democratic nomination.
Campaigns consume a lot of time and generate a lot of stress, so Gallagher made a deal with her husband: she’d run for the state Senate, and the family would attend some demolition derbies if she became the Democrats’ nominee.
“We’re going to be attempting most of the demolition derbies throughout the district through the summer,” Gallagher laughed.
Attending that many smash-fests and winning support from voters will be a challenge across the enormous district, which spans from the ski resorts of the Wasatch Back to the oil and natural gas fields of the Uinta Basin, she said.
Gallagher, a first-time candidate who is experienced in political involvement, hopes to bring a moderate flavor to her candidacy.
“This election cycle offers a unique opportunity for people who are moderates, who are Democrats, and who are especially interested in some of the issues I would like to work with,” she said.
Gallagher said issues she wants to emphasize include statewide air quality, land use issues in the Uinta Basin and bringing new perspectives to the Capitol.
Another candidate in the running for District 26 is Cathy Callow-Heusser, a Park City-based educator affiliated with the United Utah Party, a centrist party founded last year in response to what it calls the “dysfunctional state of politics in Utah.” Callow-Heusser, the UUP’s lone candidate in the district and formerly a registered Republican, said she wants to be a moderate voice in a Legislature she sees as divided between two extremes in the Republican and Democratic parties.
“I’m frustrated with our polarization in politics, (I) would like to see more women’s voices represented and the time is now,” Callow-Heusser said. “I’m very disillusioned with where the Republican Party has gone this past several years.”
This isn’t Callow-Heusser’s first foray into electoral politics. The former Utah Board of Education staffer unsuccessfully ran for a spot on the Park City Board of Education in 2016, and has been gearing up for the 2018 election for a long time. She first intended to challenge U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop as a Republican in the 1st District, but said concerns about fundraising caused her to adjust her focus to the State Senate.
Getting big money out of politics is one of her key issues. The candidate also says statewide education funding and grappling with the complexities of public lands will also be key parts of her campaign across the diverse 26th District.
While she is based in Park City, Callow-Heusser, who used to live in the Cache Valley region, stressed that she relates to the issues in the more rural parts of the district.
“I’m much more aligned, income-wise, with people that live in areas outside of Park City,” she said. “I’m not one of the wealthy in Park City, I think I can speak to that pretty clearly.”
Roberto Lopez, a Park City-based owner of an airport shuttle service who is seeking the Democratic nomination in the race for House District 54, said he’s running because he sees an obligation to get involved amid the division and chaos defining current politics.
“Now is not the time for good people to be on the sidelines,” Lopez said. “We have to get involved.”
Lopez, a former Army interpreter, will run against Meaghan Miller, another Parkite, for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican incumbent Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber.
The candidate said that things he’d like to emphasize during his campaign include improvements to transportation infrastructure, addressing the state’s affordable housing crisis and giving Utah’s native tribes more of a say in policy.
Lopez also said a long-term goal, if he’s elected, would be to lead an effort to bring Outdoor Retailer, the annual outdoors industry convention that left Salt Lake City for Denver, to Summit and Wasatch counties. The candidate said it would be a significant investment, but one he thinks the Wasatch Back would make good on.
“It’s easier said than done but we have to start somewhere,” Lopez said. “We would have to start small so that we’re noninvasive to our environment. … We have the smartest people on the planet in the two counties, so we could make it work.”
Lopez said his drive for the campaign stems from his love for the Wasatch Back.
“Nobody loves the Park City-Heber City area more than I do,” Lopez said.
A critic of a Park City workforce or otherwise affordable housing project in Old Town said he is considering an appeal of the Park City Planning Commission’s approval of the development.