Ogden man wins spot on ballot with $0 campaign contributions

Friday , August 14, 2015 - 11:37 PM

By CATHY MCKITRICK Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — As of Tuesday’s unofficial vote tally, the two top candidates in this city’s At-Large council race — Luis Lopez and John Ogden — were separated by a mere 11 votes.

Lopez, the front-runner, received 926 votes, while Ogden ran close behind with 915. But their initial campaign finance reports revealed that Lopez raised $10,240 in donations and spent $3,620 while Ogden brought in no donations and spent $272 out of pocket.

The two rose to the top from a field of five: Virginia Hernandez Reza, Vance Jay Jackson and Eric Holmes were eliminated.

“I was really pleasantly surprised, I thought to myself ‘that’s a lot of votes,’” Ogden said of Tuesday’s results.

This is the first foray into city politics for both Ogden and Lopez.

“I had no gauge as to where I should be at, but I was talking to everyone I knew and encouraging them to tell everyone to vote,” Ogden said.

In addition to spending $272 on signs and fliers, Ogden also posted a bio on the state elections website and launched a Facebook page.

In contrast, the Lopez campaign geared up early and hosted an event in downtown Ogden the Saturday before the filing period opened in early June.

Ogden, 49, has lived in Ogden since 1994 and credited his large number of personal contacts with boosting his vote count — he worked as the men’s area manager at Dillards until 2001, where he said he built a lot of “first-name” relationships with customers.

Then Ogden launched a janitorial business called Ogden Cleaning, Inc. Those contracts also opened up opportunities to expand his social network.

While he no longer bids on city contracts, he said he did quite a bit of business for Ogden City in the past, including cleaning of public safety buildings where he got to know police officers and firefighters.

“I heard their struggles firsthand,” Ogden said.

Ogden eventually scaled back his business to take a federal job as a supply specialist with Defense Logistics Agency, a position that came with health and retirement benefits. With a growing family, those aspects became important.

An Army veteran from the first Gulf War, Ogden said he met his wife Yolanda in El Paso, Texas, while stationed at Fort Bliss. Their adult children are now ages 24 and 22.

“I’ve been wanting to run for office for 10 years. It’s been on my heart a long time,” Ogden said. So now that his kids are older and “doing their own thing,” Ogden said the time was finally right to pursue that dream.

While confessing that he has a lot to learn about city policies and politics, a couple of issues immediately rose to the surface as motivation to get involved.

“I would really like to see more recreation programs for kids, and I’d like to keep costs down so that any kid can participate,” Ogden said.

Ogden said he would also like to see a larger police presence in Ogden “as a deterrent” to illicit drugs.

“If you get someone who is addicted, they’ll do anything to get it — and that creates a lot of crime,” Ogden said. “So that has to be an ongoing fight.”

Lopez, 37, immigrated form Guadalajara, Mexico, at age 19. At that time, he could not speak English. Now armed with both a Bachelors and Masters degree, he directs Weber State University’s Community Education Center and serves on an array of board and committees. He also founded and heads up Latinos United Promoting Education and Civic Engagement (LUPEC).

“It’s part of who I am, I want to serve,” Lopez said in an earlier interview. “I’ve always had the idea to run for office, it’s one of my passions.”

His campaign finance report showed broadbased support, with about 60 donations that ranged in size from $20 to $1,250.

“Our campaign is very proud of the fact that we raised so much, but also that out of the $10,240, not a single contribution hit the $1,500 maximum,” said Oscar Mata, Lopez’s campaign manager.

“We always knew that running in an entire at-large race was going to be tough, so our goal from March when we started was to first get past Aug. 11 and then move on to Nov. 3,” Mata said.

And while they believe they put everything in place to be successful, Mata said the 11-vote margin separating Lopez and Ogden drove home the need to “keep up the work, keep on knocking on doors, making phone calls and putting up signs.”

For Ogden, he intends to step up his presence on social media, get out and talk to people in the city’s diverse neighborhoods and “really find out what’s going on.”

“I don’t have a plan to get a bunch of contributions,” Ogden said. “I just want to get out and talk to people.

More information about Ogden can be found on his Facebook page or the state elections website.

Find out more about Luis Lopez on his Facebook page or candidate website.

Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or cmckitrick@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck.

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