Commentary: The rise of Alexander Castagno and the United Utah Party

The people of Utah are fed up. They are fed up with the incessant fighting between Republicans and Democrats in both our state and national legislatures, which they end up footing the bill for. They are fed up with the lack of change and progress being made to improve their daily lives. They are fed up with being constantly overlooked and ignored as parties focus on maintaining power rather than aiding constituents.

The effects of party politics have taken their toll on the people and the results are going to show in the upcoming midterm election. The people want change and they’re looking at third parties for it.

Utahan’s distaste for party politics is exemplified in the Utah Senate District 9 election and in the growth of the United Utah Party’s support. For the last year, the UUP has grown tremendously in support across the state. Its message of returning power to the people and freeing the government of partisan politics has resonated with thousands. Its structure and leadership has led to an unprecedented 16 candidates on the upcoming ballot.

Don’t believe the movement? Just look at Eric Eliason’s campaign for Congress as he’s become just the second third-party candidate in Utah to qualify for the debates. The first candidate? Jim Bennet last year, who also ran as a UUP.

The disparity between the UUP’s motives and the other parties is apparent when observing the Senate District 9 race. For months, the main focus of the Republican and Democrat parties has been the dispute about Democrat Monica Zoltanski and her push to be on the ballot after Abbey Wright, the original Democratic candidate, dropped out for family medical reasons.

Lost in all the debate between the parties has been the emergence of Alexander Castagno and the United Utah Party. Throughout this whole time, Castagno has been hard at work, canvassing door-to-door six days a week, working to listen to the voices of the people to hear what they want to see changed. No other candidate has come close in outreach efforts to meet with the people of Sandy. Kirk Cullimore Jr., the Republican candidate, has seemingly disappeared after winning the primary, with no campaign updates on any of his social media or websites since April, probably believing he’s won the election already due to his affiliation with the Republican party.

Meanwhile the Democrats have been solely focused on getting on the ballot through, it seems, any means possible. Both candidates’ behavior show that they value party politics more than the needs of the people and have made it apparent to the people that if elected, they will continue the pattern of party over people that has plagued Utah for years.

As a result, thousands of constituents of Senate District 9 have put aside party affiliations and given their support for Castagno and his premise of bipartisanship in hopes of a future where they will benefit, not the parties. And it’s not only the constituents. Castagno’s grassroots campaign and belief in an ethical campaign has been recognized and supported by major local organizations such as Teamsters Local 222, the Utah Cultural Advocacy Alliance and Equality Utah. With Zoltanski being deemed as only a write-in candidate and with Cullimore making no campaign efforts, it seems that the election is Castagno’s to win.

Times are changing in Utah and the Democrats and Republicans are going to be surprised at the midterms with the success of the United Utah Party.

Nolan Phan, Salt Lake City, is a student at the University of Utah.