Cole Capener gains confidence in District 53 race
Utah House District 53 Democratic candidate Cole Capener, a self-described legislative watchdog, said one thing remains glaringly apparent: the status quo is not working anymore.
The former international business lawyer and humanitarian, he remotely operates a nonprofit organization in Zimbabwe, said the Legislature “does not represent the majority will in the state,” which prompted his candidacy. Capener, who is 60 years old and lives in Sun Peak, said “our values aren’t being embraced by the Legislature, but that is a hard sell.”
Capener will likely face Morgan County Councilman Logan Wilde in the general election in November. Wilde defeated incumbent Rep. Mel Brown (R-Coalville) by only 8 votes in the June election. However, Brown recently filed a suit with the Utah Supreme Court contesting the results of the GOP primary election for Utah House seat 53. A decision has yet to be made.
“I ran because I thought I Mel brown was not responsive to the people in district and I had devised a strategy against him. But I think Logan’s win has proved that he (Brown) is vulnerable,” Capener said.
One of the areas where Capener has consistently said the Legislature “has dropped the ball” is in education. He noted how Utah is ranked at the bottom of the heap when it comes to per-pupil spending, adding that it is “just unacceptable.”
“We don’t pay our teachers enough and, as a result, there is a real teacher shortage in Utah,” Capener said. “He (Wilde) says the issue is local control and I think that is a red herring and it has almost always been one. Our local school districts have enormous control over what happens and the problem is not a lack of local control, it is a lack of proper funding.
“If elected, he (Wilde) will go into that Legislature and vote like that super majority party that is already in there and every year they allocate just enough money to keep up with the growth and never enough to do what we need to do,” he said.
Another area where Capener highlighted a stark contrast concerns the issue of public lands. Wilde has previously told The Park Record that he supports the transfer of certain public lands to the state and any lawsuit the state files to achieve that. Capener strongly disagrees.
“My approach to this is colored by the way I think government should be, which is cost efficient,” he said. “The state should not engage in frivolous litigation that only enriches lawyers and takes away from taxpayers’ resources. I think it is silly and a waste of taxpayers’ money to try and sue the government where you will have little likelihood of success.
“When you add the expenses of caring for the lands, it places an additional burden on the state’s budget and that, to me, takes away from funds that are available for public education,” he said. “Some of the ranchers have legitimate concerns and I think they should be addressed, but I also think in my district there are people who are really interested in public recreation and preserving those opportunities.”
Capener acknowledged the uphill battle he faces as a Democrat seeking a seat in the Utah Legislature. He said he has a strategy now that he will likely face Wilde, which is to follow in the steps of former Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson.
“He won in Utah by going out and listening to people and demonstrating that he is a reliable guy and he is a fair guy and that no matter what he will represent his constituents,” Capener said. “He provided the model for how someone in the minority party can win in Utah.”
District 53 covers large swaths of Daggett, Rich, Morgan, Duchesne and Summit counties. In Summit County District 53 includes: Park West, Kimball Junction, Promontory, Snyders Mill, Moose Hollow, Silver Springs, Jeremy Ranch, all of North and South Summit, and parts of Pinebrook.
Capener said is he “obviously a Democrat,” but emphasized that the party would not control his vote, adding that he has “always been my own person.”
“I’ll keep saying it: the status quo is not OK,” Capener said. “I think that resonates with independents and I know it registers with a lot of Republicans. Logan Wilde just represents the status quo. Even though he is not in there and hasn’t been in there before, he will vote just like Mel Brown has and we can’t afford to that anymore.
“I think we have a good shot at it,” he said.
To view Cole Capener’s Facebook page, go to https://www.facebook.com/cole4UtahHouse53/.