Utah climate activist mounts longshot bid for Senate
A Salt Lake City man urging action on climate change is campaigning for the U.S. Senate, the second time he has sought a seat in the upper chamber of Congress on a platform that is heavily influenced by environmental issues.
Bill Barron, a 49-year-old ski patroller, carpenter and climate activist, is not affiliated with a political party. He wants to unseat the Republican incumbent, Sen. Mike Lee. Misty K. Snow is the Democratic candidate.
Barron has not held political office before. He unsuccessfully campaigned in the 2nd District of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014 and mounted an unsuccessful challenge to Republican Orrin Hatch for the Senate in 2012.
Barron said climate change is the “overarching issue” of the era. He called climate change the “most urgent issue of our time” and said the environment is “being suffocated” by the use of fossil fuels.
Barron wants Congress to pass legislation that assesses fees on fossil fuels that would be tied to the amount of emissions created. The fees would then be made into dividends that would be distributed equally to households. The program is known as carbon fee and dividend. Barron said he would introduce a bill that would create a program or support a similar proposal from another legislator.
Barron said climate change has broad ramifications for numerous other issues addressed by Congress. The climate influences diverse topics like immigration, the economy and national security, he said.
“I think everything is exacerbated by a lack of action on climate change,” Barron said.
Barron, though, said his campaign will not focus on the broader issues that a candidate for Senate usually addresses. He said widening his platform would weaken his message about climate change.
Barron is a longshot candidate in a campaign with two major-party figures on the ballot. Lee is seeking a second term in the Senate while Snow won the Democratic nomination by a wide margin in a June primary.
It is unclear, though, what sort of support Barron will garner in Summit County, particularly the Park City area. Leaders in Park City have for years pursued a wide-ranging environmental platform meant to reduce emissions. Officials have long held that a changing climate could someday threaten the ski industry that drives the Park City-area economy. A candidate stressing environmental issues could likely make more political inroads in the Park City area than they could in many other places in the state that are suspicious of the green movement.
In the Senate election in 2012, when Barron also campaigned as an unaffiliated candidate, he claimed 1.1 percent of the vote in Summit County. The figure, although well behind the major-party candidates, beat his statewide returns of .71 percent.
Barron said he hopes to win 10 percent of the vote on Election Day in November. He wants people to use their vote to make a statement about their concern for the need to address a changing climate. He plans to hike and bicycle across the state starting on Wednesday as part of the campaign.
“This issue of climate change is so urgent that we need to be facing it as soon as possible,” Barron said.
Barron’s campaign website is http://www.voteforclimate.us.