Commentary: D.C. hopes Curtis will be a new kind of leader

One of Chaffetz’s favorite pastimes while here, instead of working on Utah’s behalf, was to act as D.C.’s overlord at every opportunity.

FILE - In this Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, file photo, Republican John Curtis, walks on stage during Utah's 3rd Congressional District debate, in a race to replace Jason Chaffetz in the U.S. House of Representatives, in Sandy, Utah. Curtis is scheduled to face off Wednesday night, Oct. 18, 2017, with Democratic candidate Dr. Kathryn Allen and United Utah Party candidate Jim Bennett, who is running as a centrist, in the third debate to replace Chaffetz in the U.S. House of Representatives this November at Brigham Young University. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Congratulations to John Curtis, the new representative from Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, a man who ran for Congress in an environment where there is but a razor’s edge to stand on in between political ideologies these days, and yet still won as a “moderate.”

As a Utah native, and a proud D.C. resident, I want to be one of the first to welcome John to the District of Columbia. I do so with a great hope for change.

During his congressional campaign, Curtis said he “could be a different kind of leader,” than Jason Chaffetz was. If, as he said in his acceptance speech, he truly does not want to “become a politician” in D.C. and instead wants to find “common ground,” then I have a suggestion for the perfect place to begin: He can treat me, and my neighbors, with the basic respect we deserve, a respect his predecessor never showed us, when he arrives here in the next few weeks.

As a reminder to all Utahns in the 3rd district, we taxpaying citizens who happen to live in Washington have no voting representatives in Congress. We are at the mercy of yours. One of Chaffetz’s favorite pastimes while here, instead of working on Utah’s behalf, was to act as D.C.’s overlord at every opportunity. Chaffetz regularly proposed laws and budget riders that would impact taxpaying citizens living in DC: death-with-dignity laws, drug policies, marriage laws, nothing was off-limits. His time spent on those issues provided no benefit to Utahns (or anyone else). He even proposed that we retrocede to Maryland (something he would know was abhorrent to us, if he ever took the time ask.)

Chaffetz was not unique in this way. Many congressmen, elected hundreds or thousands of miles away, flit in and out of their D.C. office without paying the actual residents of our city any heed. Yet, these same men believe they have the right to thwart our communities’ ability to make decisions for ourselves. Chaffetz, currently cashing in on Fox News instead of serving out his term in Congress, particularly enjoyed scoring points with deep pocket donors by bullying us in his role as chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

While he was in town, Chaffetz’s interaction with D.C. consisted mainly of scuttling from a black SUV to his office-cot, and back again. Perhaps he was busy, perhaps he feared he would actually have to interact with or speak to some of us (the horror!) but whatever the reason, Chaffetz never cared enough to get to know us. He never asked what we want or what we need, or why we need it. But he certainly loved to tell us what to do.

We have the sincerest hope that Rep. Curtis can, indeed, in this particularly rough political environment, prove to be a “different” kind of a congressman. A man who can lay down partisan politics and get back to what it is that makes us all American: our right to self-determination. The right of a people to know their own needs, to determine their own priorities, and to vote for their own representatives.

Accordingly, we take this opportunity to extend an invitation to Mr. Curtis to get to know the city which he will call home while Congress is in session, and to actually listen to and see us in a way that his predecessor never took the time to do.

Yes, we vote overwhelmingly Democratic, but we are Americans too, raising our children here, working to pay the bills, growing tomatoes, shoveling sidewalks for our neighbors. We would love to show him what our beloved community holds — not just the monuments and the Capitol, but the neighborhoods where many have lived their entire lives. We’d love to show him our schools, our hardware stores, our historic markets, our parks and our cemeteries. This is our home, and insofar as John Curtis expects us to respect him as a representative of Utah’s 3rd, we hope that he respects us back.

Please, do what you say you intend to do, congressman, and join us for a tour of our home. We have a pair of D.C.-flag themed socks waiting for you.

Lynette Craig | Americans For Self-Rule | Photo by Maria Helena Carey

Lynette Craig is president of Americans For Self-Rule.