Over summer and into fall, I have joined hardworking Democratic candidates at parades and door-knocking, from Brigham City’s Peach Days, Parowan’s Labor Day gathering, to Green River’s Melon Days and places in between — half-a-dozen parades and hundreds of front-porch conversations, still ongoing, especially at homes in Salt Lake County’s most diverse west side neighborhoods.
This shared effort — democratic sweat equity — is important. Mostly one-party rule in our fast-growing Beehive State has often contradicted the will of voters, whether it be gerrymandered maps, backroom deals on medical marijuana or an unfair food tax.
A healthy political marketplace means a non-comatose Utah Democratic Party and a Utah Republican Party not dominated by extreme voices. Too many candidates today pit neighbor-against-neighbor and undermine confidence in our elections.
Utah Democrats have crucial arguments to make all the way through Election Day. We support reproductive freedom, including abortion access, at a time – post-Roe – of dystopian vigilantism against women and their health care providers.
Pregnant teens stalked by legislators? Physicians in prison?
Utah Democrats have long advanced environmental stewardship, not climate change denial, including well before this summer’s record-breaking streak of 100-plus-degree days. The science showing the West’s 1,200-year aridification, a shrinking Great Salt Lake, depleted Colorado River and baked red rock landscape is not partisan fiction. These are the facts. The Lake Powell Pipeline was always a desert mirage.
Despite record inflation, Utah Democrats are still fighting for good jobs and a living wage. We support labor unions, equality, public lands and a country in which no one should go bankrupt because of unexpected medical bills. On student loans (I graduated two-plus decades ago with almost $25,000 owed, fully repaid), Democrats believe college should not be limited only to those fortunate families who can afford, worry-free, escalating tuition payments. President Joe Biden’s plan is not a “bribe.”
While I walked a parade route in Heber, an elderly voter argued for “the wall” along the U.S. border with Mexico. I reminded him that immigration policy represented a bipartisan failure but that he might also look into the situation regarding his Social Security checks. Democrats established and are defending the program. Republicans advocate cuts.
This retiree said, “I’m going to google that.”
“You should,” I replied.
Before an Iron County parade, I struck up a conversation with Republican state legislator Carl Albrecht, a Richfield resident and apple orchard owner. We talked about water conservation, which I believe to be the single-biggest bridging issue in our state — or should be. He predicted the topic would remain at the top of Utah’s agenda. Progress, however tenuous, I thought.
In August, I knocked doors with a West Valley City fireman on behalf of an indomitable state Legislature candidate, Lynette Wendel, who lost her last race by only 84 votes and is now back at it on the campaign trail. A Vietnam War veteran with solar panels on his roof told us he voted for JFK but that he believed Democrats had lost their way.
When we emphasized that Utah Democrats are not Brooklyn Democrats and will not, and cannot, take any voter for granted, he softened a bit.
These conversations reflect what finding common ground by persevering Utah Democrats looks and sounds like.
For many of us, our ballots will soon arrive in the mail. This efficient, popular, trusted Utah tradition has advantages beyond convenience. Around our kitchen tables and at desktops, we can research candidates, verify positions and character, trade notes with friends, family and reputable sources. Do our democratic due diligence.
This election year I intend to fill out my ballot differently. The first race, a critical one, that I will mark is for Salt Lake County Clerk. My vote for well-qualified Lannie Chapman, a former deputy district Attorney and current chief deputy to retiring and legendary County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, is to help ensure that this lynchpin office is not politicized — or undercut by extremist conspiracy theories. Salt Lake voters need this administrative job to remain in trustworthy hands.
The other ovals, in reverse order, will follow. School board races matter now more than ever. Book bans bode badly, as they always have.
Each race deserves attention. Each candidate warrants scrutiny. Each of us needs to finish our homework — before voting.
And Mike Lee should be defeated.
Kael Weston was the presumptive Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate and the Democratic candidate for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District in 2020.