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Doctor to challenge Rep. Bishop for Congressional seat

Published September 27, 2013 10:09 pm

Congress • Former Republican says he can help cure extremism as a "non-reflexive politician."
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Peter Clemens says today's politics are a bit sick — and could use a physician like himself to help cure extremism and maybe rework the Affordable Care Act.

The Democrat — who is a former Republican — formally announced Friday at a fundraiser that he is opposing Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, next year.

"I describe myself as a non-reflexive politician, one who is interested in all aspects of policy decisions and not ideologically tied to a preconceived notion," he said in an interview.

Clemens is the clinical director of the Wound and Hyperbaric Center at Ogden Regional Medical Center and is also a family physician. He moved to Utah in 1973 to attend Brigham Young University after growing up in the Philadelphia area.

He said he ran unsuccessfully for the Kansas City, Mo., city council when he was in medical school — as a Republican. "The Republican Party has become much more extreme since I was voting Republican back in the early '80s. ... People don't see me as extremist in any fashion."

He also ran unsuccessfully twice as a Democrat in Utah, for the state House in 2010 and the state Senate in 2012.

Clemens says he is running because "we need laws and representatives right now who are interested in promoting the interests of the middle class. ... I also believe that we need government to work for us, not to shut it down."

Continuing debate on the Affordable Care Act will lead to changes in it, Clemens said, and "it would beneficial for there to be a Utah doctor at the table to help broker that process."

Clemens says he knows he is facing an uphill battle in one of the most Republican districts in the nation. He said he has started much earlier than most Democratic candidates in the past and has raised $45,000 for his campaign in recent months.

He said he believes Bishop is vulnerable. Clemens said he will stress that he has "common Utah values" and is someone who can seek compromise between extremes.

"The theme to our campaign is, 'Leading Utah into the future, while protecting our past,' " he said. "I am very interested in finding a balance between growing our economy in Utah and protecting our unique resources that make us a very special place to live."