GOP congressional candidate Blake Moore will not vote for himself in the June 30 primary, nor will his wife. They can’t. They don’t live in the 1st District that he seeks to represent.
It used to be almost unheard of for congressional candidates to run outside their home district. Before 2008, only two House members ever clearly lived outside the districts that elected them, neither from Utah.
Since then, it’s become far less rare. Three Utahns have pulled it off: Republican Jason Chaffetz and Democrats Jim Matheson and Ben McAdams. Moore seeks to become No. 4, running for the state’s only open congressional seat.
(At least two other Republican congressional candidates were running from outside the districts this year, but both were eliminated at the state Republican convention.)
The U.S. Constitution does not require congressional candidates to live in the districts they represent, only in the same state. So, does it really matter to Utah voters if candidates don’t exactly live with the people they want to represent?
Moore says other factors are more important, like growing up in the district and experience. But his opponents say that it’s tough to know a district’s needs without living there and working and fighting alongside residents.
Moore, a principal at the Cicero business consulting group, made it onto the primary ballot by finishing second at the state GOP convention to former Utah Agriculture and Food Commissioner Kerry Gibson, a past Weber County commissioner. Those two will join two others who reached the GOP primary by gathering enough signatures: Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson and Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt.
Eight of the 12 Republicans running for the seat were eliminated at the state GOP convention from the contest to fill the seat being vacated by longtime Rep. Rob Bishop.
Moore chose to run in the 1st District — which covers northern and eastern Utah — even though he lives on the east bench of Salt Lake City in the 2nd District. The nearest 1st District border to his house is 15 miles away in Summit County. Public records show that Moore, 39, has lived in Salt Lake County for at least 14 years.
“When you're from Ogden, that never leaves you,” he said. “This is my district. This is where I have spent the vast majority of my life. I grew up in Ogden. I played football at Utah State [during his freshman year before later transferring]. That's why I chose that.”
He said if he wins, he plans to live in the district — either by moving back or perhaps being included as district lines are redrawn after the current census. “We'd evaluate that” redistricting, then decide how to proceed, he said.
“I think the voters care about who's the most qualified,” Moore said, adding that his living outside the district didn’t appear to be an issue for GOP state delegates. “Once they got to hear my message … they were very excited about me and I emerged out of the convention.”
But it is unclear how many delegates knew where he lives. Moore never mentioned or explained his Salt Lake City residency in his campaign literature.
When he filed for office, he clicked a box that prevents public disclosure of his personal address. Ironically, those — including The Salt Lake Tribune — who downloaded a spreadsheet of information on candidates from the lieutenant governor’s office saw the address of an Ogden office building included for Moore, making it seem like he lived in Ogden.
Justin Lee, state elections director for Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, said that apparently came from an alternate address that candidates must supply for mailing when they opt to keep their primary address private, and he is unsure how that ended up on the state spreadsheet. The spreadsheet has been changed so that people who download it now see no address for Moore.
Moore said he has not tried to hide anything. He said he opted not to disclose his address to protect his personal privacy and notes correctly that several other candidates did the same. He adds that his Salt Lake City residency was mentioned briefly in a Standard-Examiner story when he announced his campaign.
His opponents are taking aim at his residency now.
“I just think people wonder about who he’ll be working for if he’s not willing to live amongst us unless we give him a title,” Kaysville Mayor Witt said.
She adds Moore hasn’t worked on sticky issues with residents, and instead is saying, ‘Yeah, I don't live in the district, but you know what? I'm going to do that. I don't have any commitments. I haven't shown any leadership in this area. But gosh darn it, I'm ready to do this.”
Gibson said, “I trust the voters of District 1 to decide for themselves whether someone living on the east bench of Salt Lake City can represent the needs of northern Utah.” Then he noted, “As a fifth-generation dairy farmer, I was born, raised and have worked and raised my family in this district my entire life.”
Davis County Commissioner Stevenson said, “Salt Lake City is a long way from the 1st District. To really be able to know and understand the issues, lifestyles and needs, you need to be part of that district.”
He said that Chaffetz, Matheson and McAdams — who won while living outside the districts that elected them — “lived a stone’s throw from those districts” or had held elected office representing large parts of them, which he said does not apply to Moore.
However, Moore said, “I'm not very far, probably about 12 minutes away” from the nearest border in Summit County, 15 miles away.
Current Rep. McAdams lives about two blocks outside his district, but he ran originally two years ago when he was Salt Lake County mayor — and 85% of the district residents lived in that county.
Chaffetz lived about two miles outside his 3rd District in the only corner of Utah County not in it when he first ran in 2008, but later redistricting drew his home into the new district that elected him.
The Republican Legislature split Matheson’s original district into three parts in redistricting in 2012. He said they “took my current district and basically blew it up.” So he chose not to run in his new home district, but in one 5 miles from his house that contained more of his old district.
Before 2008, the only U.S. House members in history identified that clearly did not live in their districts were both from Maryland, Reps. Parren J. Mitchell (who served from 1971-87) and William McCreery (1803-09).
Mitchell, who was African American, chose to run in a district that was more heavily black than his home district. McCreery was elected from a Baltimore district where he had lived for years, but he had recently moved to a rural area.
Through the years, many others were accused of not living in their districts — but rented apartments or purchased houses within the district to at least appear to be living there.