Tribune editorial: Singer would be a refreshing new voice for Utah’s 3rd District

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) James Singer gives a speech, during the Indigenous Peoples Day celebration, hosted by the Utah League of Native American Voters and PANDOS (Peaceful Advocates for Native Dialogue and Organizing Support) at the Salt Lake City Library, Monday, October 9, 2017.

To bring a much-needed new attitude to Congress, voters in Utah’s 3rd District would be well advised to choose a candidate who, it just so happens, is descended from the state’s oldest inhabitants.

James Courage Singer is young, educated, passionate and Navajo (on his father’s side). If elected, the Democratic candidate would bring to the House a respect for the land and a concern for the natural world that supports us all, attitudes that are too often lacking in the halls of power at all levels of government.

On many of the issues, from health care to taxes, Singer’s politics are a bit to the left. As in Bernie Sanders left. At the same time, he sees that politics and governing are matters of compromise and cooperation. And, if he ever forgets that, there will be plenty of Utahns ready to remind him.

On one of his most urgent concerns, climate change, Singer sees the promise of market-oriented solutions and green energy jobs. He also sees the need to bring the state’s coal industry, or at least the miners who have labored for it for generations, into a future of green energy careers rather than being left in the slag heap of history.

Singer’s attitude toward immigrants and refugees is properly Utahn — welcoming, compassionate and fully aware that immigrants provide needed energy and labor. He wants weapons of war off or our streets and would press to make America a beacon of hope, rather than a aggressive threat, to the rest of the world. He sees that the proper answer to concerns about abortion is to provide the services and information necessary to avoid the need.

Rather than look at Utah’s vast amount of public lands and lament the fact that there haven’t been enough holes drilled in it, Singer sees the need for preservation and for services to protect it from fires and other hazards.

Singer is, admittedly, a long shot to defeat the freshman Republican, Rep. John Curtis, who has only just been elected to fill out the unexpired term left by the sudden departure of Jason Chaffetz.

Curtis is a soft-spoken man with useful political experience as the mayor of Provo. His attitude toward immigration, trade and the environment is refreshingly moderate compared to many of his fellow Republicans. We could do worse. As, when Chaffetz was in that seat, we clearly did.

But Curtis bears a burden that, by itself, could be seen as fully disqualifying. Only after he became a member of Congress did it come out that, as mayor, Curtis mishandled the serious matter of a police chief accused, in Provo and in previous positions he held, of sexual misconduct. While Curtis later apologized for the way the matter was handled, the fact that he allowed the chief to slip out under a cover story of family health issues rather than be open about what was happening is a serious stain on the congressman’s record.

Or, as Curtis himself said, “This will leave a mark.”

Indeed it has.

James Singer, on the other hand, bears no such stains. And, depending on how elections go elsewhere, he might move the number of Native Americans serving in Congress from two to three. The other two now sitting are Republicans from Oklahoma. Utah should be the home of another one.