Republican activist launches campaign for Stewart's seat

(Courtesy of Mary Burkett) Mary Burkett, a GOP activist and St. George resident, is running for Rep. Chris Stewart's seat.

A longtime GOP activist in southern Utah has launched a bid to challenge — and, she hopes, unseat — three-term incumbent Rep. Chris Stewart next year.

Mary Burkett, a member of the Republican State Central Committee and former vice chairwoman of the Washington County Republican Party, said she’s seen “an appetite for change” in the 2nd Congressional District.

“I’m not looking for a career in politics,” she said in a statement released Monday. “When a candidate is building a career in politics, their votes reflect their best interests, not their constituents’ best interests. They hesitate to speak truth to power, and cast go-along-to-get-along votes. The voting record of our present representative, Chris Stewart, is a great example of this behavior.”

Burkett, who was born in New Jersey and raised in California, graduated from the University of Utah and lives in St. George. Before her decision to join the race, she toured the district for 90 days and found “a genuine longing to get back to our constitutional principles of minimal federal government, individual rights and states’ rights.”

The 2nd District stretches all the way from southern Davis County to Washington County, scooping up Salt Lake City along the way.

A former advertising executive, Burkett has opposed the state’s new election law, which has caused a rift in the Republican party; SB54 allows candidates to qualify for a primary election by collecting signatures and/or the traditional caucus-convention system. In a letter to the editor published by The Salt Lake Tribune in 2015, Burkett called it “a bad idea.”

“Trying to force a political party to change how it chooses its nominees is contrary to the principles of a representative republic,” she wrote.

Her platform, posted on an online campaign page, includes support for an Obamacare repeal, more state control of public lands and a border wall between the United States and Mexico. She also says climate change is “not man-made” and proposes abolishing the U.S. Department of Education.

Democrat Carol Surveyor, the co-founder of the Utah League of Native American Voters, is also planning a run against Stewart. Meanwhile, the congressman has said he would seek Sen. Orrin Hatch’s seat if the 83-year-old lawmaker does not seek re-election.