Not just GOP, Dems — Libertarians vying for two seats in Weber County
OGDEN — Some Weber County voters have additional options this election cycle aside from Democrats and Republicans.
Two Libertarians are among the local candidates for office in Weber County — District 9 Utah House candidate Jacob Johnson and Brian Rowley, who’s vying for seat B on the Weber County Commission. Eighteen Libertarians are running in all for office across Utah this cycle, from the U.S. Senate post now held by Republican Mike Lee on down, according to the Libertarian Party of Utah website.
Neither Johnson nor Rowley hold much regard for the traditional parties.
“For one, I don’t feel like either political party is living up to the ideals that they promote through their constitutions and bylaws,” said Johnson, who’s from West Haven. He went on: “I have yet to see any growth of liberty under either of them in any significant way.”
Rowley, from Ogden, singled out the government overreach he saw in the varied mask mandates and lockdowns during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which runs contrary to Libertarian tenets that put a focus on individual autonomy and minimal government involvement. Johnson sounded a similar theme.
“The lockdowns, all the mandates — there were a lot of ill-informed decisions that were going on,” Rowley said. “I’m all for personal vaccines, but not vaccine cards.” Business operators, he went on, should have been the ones making the call on whether to require masks among customers inside their locales, not government officials.
Third-party hopefuls can have a tough time of it in the two-party system that dominates in the United States. For Rowley, though, it’s about being true to his ideals.
“I don’t want to be known as a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” he said. “I want to be true to myself and my voters.”
Johnson is making his first bid for office in running for the District 9 Utah House seat, which extends from West Haven east to central Ogden. Cal Musselman, a Republican from West Haven, now serves in the post and he’s seeking reelection. Neil Hansen of Ogden is the Democratic contender.
The Libertarian, who works in the fraud department of a large financial adviser, sounds an anti-war message, charging that the recent conflicts involving the United States have been “completely immoral,” none having proper congressional authorization. He pointed to the conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
“I don’t see what we have to show for any of them,” Johnson said. Declaring war may be a function of Congress, but officials can take action at the state level by prohibiting National Guard units from being deployed into a combat zone if federal lawmakers don’t make such a declaration. It’s an approach touted by a group called Defend the Guard that he favors.
Education is another big issue for Johnson. He favors “getting the state out of education or at the very least, opening up schooling to the free market.”
Rowley is seeking the county commission post to be vacated by Scott Jenkins, the Republican who isn’t running for reelection. Two GOP hopefuls will face off at the June 28 primary, Sharon Bolos of West Haven and Bill Olson of North Ogden, and the Libertarian will face the winner in November. No Democrat is vying for the post.
While keeping government power in check is perhaps the key issue for Rowley, combatting homelessness is also big. He’s manager of a restaurant and has witnessed the financial struggles of some of his workers.
Jenkins has been the point person on the commission in addressing homelessness and Rowley “would like to continue his work and improve upon it.”
Keeping a lid on taxes is also important for Rowley. Weber County last year boosted property taxes, as did a number of cities, he noted, while state officials have put a focus on trimming taxes.
“No more tax increases for sure,” Rowley said. “If the rest of the state can lower their taxes, I don’t see why Weber County needs to raise theirs.”