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Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah
Utah’s 1st District race about direction: right, left or forward?

Dem says GOP incumbent makes D.C. more divisive; he says House has never been a friendly place.

First Published Sep 25 2012 07:38 pm • Last Updated Jan 07 2013 11:31 pm

The 1st Congressional District race literally is about the country’s direction. It’s shown by the campaign slogans of GOP Rep. Rob Bishop and his Democratic challenger, Donna McAleer.

Her slogan: "Not left. Not right. Forward."

At a glance

1st Congressional District

Rep. Rob Bishop:

» Served five terms in Congress.

» Serves on the powerful House Rules Committee.

» Chairman, House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

» Temporarily on leave from the Armed Services Committee, while he serves on rules.

» Served 16 years in the Utah Legislature, including as House speaker.

» Former high school history teacher.

Donna McAleer:

» President of her class at West Point, served as a 2nd lieutenant in Germany.

» MBA from the University of Virginia.

» Led global division of GenRad, a technology company.

» Finished fourth in U.S. Olympic bobsled trials in 2002.

» Former executive director of People’s Health Clinic in Park City.

» Author of book, “Porcelain on Steel: Women of West Point’s Long Gray Line.”

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Bishop’s slogan: "Right on the issues. Right where we need him."

Bishop celebrates being on the right as a conservative. He says that’s what his district wants and that it allows him to work with House majority Republicans to move issues. McAleer says he is extreme and contributes to divisive politics and stalemates. She adds that she can work with both parties to move the country forward.

"Right now, Washington thrives on divisiveness," McAleer says. "I think he is part of that divisiveness, the gridlock, the obstructionism, the partisanship. That’s demonstrated in a voting record where you constantly vote with the majority. That’s no compromise. That’s no dialogue."

As a graduate of West Point (and president of her class there) and a former U.S. Army officer, she says she is used to seeing the military "rally around the mission" with people of different opinions and backgrounds — and helped rally others as a global technology business executive, as leader of a Park City nonprofit health clinic and as one of the country’s top bobsled athletes. She wants to help Congress do it, too.

Bishop sees it differently.

"Utah is a conservative state, and I think I represent that point of view as well as anyone possibly could. I think I’m where my constituents are, and I am in some positions where I can effectively use that," including as a member of the powerful Rules Committee, which determines what bills are debated, and as chairman of a House subcommittee overseeing public lands.

"The House of Representatives more than anything else is a team sport," he says, adding that he is in the center philosophically of the majority party. "When you’re with the majority of the majority, you can actually move things. That’s exactly where I am. That has its advantages."

Bishop, a former high school history teacher, says he likes to learn from history. He lives in an early 1900s "Victorian eclectic" home in Brigham City, which is full of antique furniture connected to stories from his family history. In an interview, he even wears a T-shirt that says, "Very Old Navy," instead of Old Navy, and it pictures a Viking ship.


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He says people who complain about divisiveness in Congress need to take a wider view.

"I look back at the history of the House, and there has never been a whole lot of comity and friendliness. You look back at some of the things that have happened in Congress, and it makes us look like a bunch of little wimps who are having a camp-out together."

He says history — plus experience from five terms in Congress and 16 years in the state Legislature, including serving as the Utah House speaker — teaches that it pays to operate from a position of power within the majority party.

He recounts how, during his second term, the Utah delegation was having trouble getting appropriators to talk about language it worried could help create a new nuclear waste storage site in Skull Valley. But he was then — as he is again now — on the Rules Committee. So an appropriations subcommittee chairman, whose staff had been avoiding him, could not escape facing Bishop there.

"There are no time limits on that committee," and Bishop questioned that chairman at length about an issue he did not realize was a problem until Bishop was holding up his bill. He soon agreed to make more fixes than Bishop says he believed were possible.

McAleer says she bases her plans not so much on the history of Congress or power but on ideals.

"I seek an opportunity to serve this county very much because I believe in democracy and the freedoms that we value and uphold," she says. "I take inspiration in creating a great future and making things better."

Her mother immigrated through Ellis Island after fleeing with her parents from Hungary in 1944, just before the Soviets invaded. Her father is second-generation Italian, and his grandparents "left the poverty of southern Italy to make a new life in this country."

She says that made her want to attend West Point, and give back — and learn leadership. She says she wants to help form a new generation of leaders "who will put service and doing what’s right for Utah and our nation above personal interest and gain."

Both McAleer and Bishop see public lands and protection of Hill Air Force Base as key issues — and each has differing views on how to proceed with them.

On lands, Bishop says he plans to use his chairmanship on the public lands subcommittee to try some bold proposals on wilderness next year "that may surprise some people" that "would give everyone something they want and just move things forward."

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