Record editorial: When it comes to voter engagement, Sen. Allen Christensen needs to do better
On Thursday, members of Summit County’s Statehouse delegation were at the Park City Library for a gathering put on by a nonprofit aiming to get Utahns involved in the political process. Though the general legislative session is months away, every opportunity residents have to interact with their lawmakers is important.
It was disappointing, then, that Sen. Allen Christensen and Rep. Logan Wilde were not in attendance, especially in light of the primary purpose of the event: to discuss how constituents can make their voices heard on Capitol Hill by engaging with their elected representatives.
While it was regrettable that Wilde, whose district covers Summit County’s East Side and the Snyderville Basin, wasn’t there, the absence of Christensen was particularly conspicuous.
Few of his constituents in places like Coalville, Jeremy Ranch and Summit Park, though, would call it surprising.
Since assuming office in 2005, Christensen, a North Odgen Republican, has too often been a scant presence in Summit County, his interaction with voters here sporadic at best. That’s a contrast to our other lawmakers, who by and large have made an effort to be visible in the community. That includes Wilde, who has shown up to public events here on a number of occasions since taking office in 2017 and, despite not being at Thursday’s event, relayed answers to some attendees’ questions through Rep. Brian King via text message.
When asked by The Park Record why he was absent, Wilde said his son was receiving a Cub Scout award Thursday evening. Christensen, on the other hand, said only that he checked his calendar and discovered he had another appointment. He declined to clarify further.
It’s certainly possible Christensen’s prior engagement was, in fact, pressing enough to warrant skipping the gathering. Without an explanation, it’s hard to say. But one thing that is certain is him no-showing at an event designed to give voters facetime with their lawmakers wasn’t exactly out of character.
For constituents, it would have been a most opportune time for Christensen to make an appearance, given the confusion surrounding the Medicaid expansion plan he sponsored this year to override Proposition 3 and drastically cut the number of Utahns eligible for health care compared to the voter-approved plan. The legislation has since blown up in lawmakers’ faces, with the Trump administration signaling it would decline to provide a waiver necessary for the program to work despite repeated assurances from Christensen and other Republicans, who said that step would not be a problem.
Alas, any voter who wanted to press Christensen on the issue — or any other matter — left the forum with no more answers from him than they had before the event.
To be clear, the problem is not that Christensen’s views don’t line up with those of a large chunk of his constituents in Summit County, who skew more liberal than voters in the rest of his large district. The same dynamic is at play for Wilde, Rep. Tim Quinn and Sen. Ron Winterton, all Republicans who have relied on voters elsewhere to win their seats and whose voting records have left many locals unsatisfied. They’ve been visible figures in Summit County nonetheless.
Christensen’s Summit County constituents, too, deserve a representative in the state Senate willing to make a good-faith effort to engage with them and seek out their input.
On Thursday, Christensen had an opportunity to do just that. It was unfortunate, but unsurprising, that he failed to take it.
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