Record editorial: Democratic candidates have what it takes to represent Summit County at the Statehouse
For decades, Republicans in the Utah Legislature have enjoyed a large majority and, with their party also firmly in control of the state’s executive office, the power to pass legislation as they see fit, without the need to reach across the aisle for buy-in from Democrats.
And as we saw when lawmakers dismantled, or outright disregarded, the ballot initiatives voters passed in 2018, the GOP-dominated Legislature isn’t even bound by the desires of its own constituents.
That dynamic is unlikely to be upended any time soon given the state’s reliably conservative electorate that sees no reason to strip the Republican Party of a legislative supermajority. But voters in Summit County, one of Utah’s Democratic strongholds, have an opportunity this fall to at least tilt the scales slightly toward a more balanced Legislature.
There are four legislative seats on the ballot this year whose districts include parts of Summit County — three in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate. In each race, voters would be well served by putting the Democrat in office.
And the decision to do so isn’t based on the blind partisanship that too often defines our politics. Rather, each of the four Democratic candidates deserves support on their own merits. Each has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to serving others. Each has the background and the skill to be a state legislator. Each would represent residents in Summit County — and the other parts of their district — effectively.
In House District 54, Wasatch County resident Meaghan Miller, again vying for the seat after narrowly losing in 2018, is committed to expanding access to health care and bolstering funding for education. As executive director of EATS Park City and a former Parkite, she understands the issues that are important to people in Summit County’s west side. What’s more, she represents an appealing contrast to the Republican in the race, Mike Kohler, who believes in hands-off government and who has expressed skepticism about whether humans are causing climate change.
Cheryl Butler is similarly well suited to serve in House District 53. The Snyderville Basin resident is a former chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and volunteers for a number of local nonprofits following a career as an executive in the energy industry. She, too, wants to increase education spending, and has pledged to address the affordable housing crisis in the Wasatch Back and other parts of the state. Butler’s opponent, Kera Birkeland, has since April occupied the seat vacated by Logan Wilde but does not have the experience that makes Butler such an appealing candidate.
The Senate District 19 race offers Katy Owens, another Summit County resident who would be an asset at the Statehouse. Owens, who lives in Pinebrook, is a public policy consultant in the field of election administration and an advocate for making health care available to all Utahns. Notably, she has also made listening to constituents and adequately representing their interests a core plank of her platform, something that stands in contrast to the man she hopes to succeed, Sen. Allen Christensen. Her competitor, John D. Johnson, carries a commendable list of professional accomplishments but embodies ideals that are out of step with Summit County, campaigning on slashing taxes and regulations and rolling back government.
Rep. Brian King, meanwhile, has done an excellent job as the House minority leader and is respected by his colleagues in both parties. Over the course of 12 years representing House District 28, he has championed progressive values while also deploying the kind of practical approach required to get things done as a member of the minority party. King unquestionably deserves another two years on Capitol Hill even as his challenger, political newcomer Carol Hunter, brings an intriguing resume of her own as a former executive at Rocky Mountain Power overseeing the company’s energy-efficiency programs.
Together, the slate of Democrats hoping to represent parts of Summit County in the Legislature is an impressive group. They each would serve admirably as strong advocates for Summit County residents in the Statehouse. Voters should send them there and bring a degree of balance to the Legislature.
The Nov. 3 election will be conducted primarily through mail-in balloting. The deadline to register online to vote is Oct. 23. For more information, visit the Summit County Clerk’s website at summitcounty.org/281/Voter-Registration-Elections.
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Our view: The annual state legislative session, which began Tuesday, is not for spectating. Residents should make their voices heard and respectfully advocate for their beliefs.