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Democrats have a spot to fill in the race for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District. Who’s running?

A committee will select a replacement for Brian Adams in a ranked-choice election on Saturday

By Alixel Cabrera - Utah News Dispatch | May 23, 2024

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

In this Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018, photo, election workers process returned voted ballots in the Salt Lake County Government Center, in Salt Lake City.

After Brian Adams dropped his spot representing the Utah Democratic Party in the race for the U.S. House 2nd Congressional District, the party is looking for a candidate to take his place on the November general election ballot.

Utah Democrats will convene virtually on Saturday at 10 a.m. to hear from the eight candidates running for the spot and to select a replacement for Adams, who had earned his nomination in an uncontested race.

Adams agreed to withdraw his nomination after the Young Democrats of Utah said he didn’t represent the party’s values. He had publicly praised independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and on his website described Jan. 6 offenders as “politically persecuted.”

“His political and policy positions are untethered from both reality and the principles that motivate our members,” Young Democrats of Utah wrote in a statement.

Candidates’ comments will be limited to five minutes on Saturday. Central Committee Members within District 2 will have two hours to vote in a virtual ranked-choice, convention-like election. The candidate who is selected will go on to the November general election, without facing a primary.

The nominee will face either incumbent Rep. Celeste Maloy or Colby Jenkins, depending on the outcome of the June 25 Republican primary.

These are the Democrats vying for the nomination in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District:

Benjamin Coffey

A project engineer at a Sandy electric company, Benjamin Coffey said in his pitch on the Utah Democratic Party website that growing up as a Latter-day Saint in West Valley City — one of the most diverse areas in Utah — pursuing traditional and technical careers, and being lower-middle class would help him represent Utahns of different backgrounds.

“To me the pursuit of happiness means that all who wish to own a home can do so. Everyone should be able to see a doctor without a fear of bankruptcy. Education of any type should be available to every person of any walk of life,” Coffey wrote.

Darrell Curtis

Darrell Curtis has previously run for local offices, such as the West Valley City Council. In a previous bio, Curtis said he was a Utah Technical College (now Salt Lake Community College) and University of Utah graduate who went on to work for a non-profit group in Washington D.C. He then moved back to West Valley City in 1993.

“I believe that our representatives must stand for truth and values. That character does matter. I cannot stand by and let this hypocrisy continue,” Curtis wrote in a statement. “The lies about the 2020 election have driven a (wedge) in our country. Our country is better than this. We need people as our representative that stand for truth and character.”

Charles Free

For the last 26 years, Charles Free has owned and operated a yellow cab in Salt Lake County, he wrote to the committee. His priorities are reproductive rights, helping fix a “broken” immigration system and taking advantage of new political opportunities to drive MAGA policies away from the country’s political power, he said.

“There is a unique opportunity now to reach Republican leaning Independents, and Republicans,” Free wrote.

Randy Hopkins

Randy Hopkins unsuccessfully pursued the Democratic nomination in the 2018 and 2020 elections. Before retiring in 2013, he was a regional director at the Utah Department of Workforce Services for 35 years. The issues he’s planning to prioritize are climate change, public lands, affordable health care, Social Security and Medicare, and health care for women without government interference.

“I’m not naive enough to believe that this is an easy race for our party to win,” he wrote. “But I’m confident that many Republican-leaning independent voters, disgusted with Donald Trump, are now willing to consider a Democratic candidate.”

Schuyler Rhodes

Schuyler Rhodes is the Iron County Democratic Party chair. He has also been a pastor, author,  teacher and community organizer, according to his website. Some of the issues he highlighted in his statement to the party were water, education, affordable housing and environmental degradation.

“I have spent a lifetime standing for the values of justice and community and I bring this experience to this time and place,” he wrote. “Our future depends upon our ability to come together to collaborate, to care and to move forward for the good of all.”

Garret Rushforth

Garret Rushforth is a social studies and theater teacher who tried gathering signatures to run for U.S. Senate earlier this year. In his statement to the state Democratic Party, he said “there is no one more versed in the volatility of education today,” or the state and national educational crises.

“I’m tired of waiting for our politicians to do what they have promised in this state. I’m tired of the elected officials who misrepresent us at the federal level. I’m tired of waiting and hoping that someone will swing out of the sky and save us,” he wrote. “So, it’s time for me to step up.”

Nathaniel Woodward

Nathaniel Woodward is the chair of the Carbon County Democratic Party. He grew up and lives in coal country where he practices law, representing rural residents “in nearly any capacity they may need.” He pledged to work in Congress to focus on issues that reflect the state’s values and benefit people affected by federal legislation.

“Governor Cox has touted a ‘disagree better’ platform from a position where he and his party have all the power,” Woodward wrote in a statement. “I will work to ‘disagree better’ from a platform that benefits all that come to the table as long as they are honest, trustworthy, and dedicated to the freedom and protection of all Utah residents.”

Warren Wright

As an African American combat veteran, Warren Wright said he would bring his experience navigating challenging environments to Congress. He also is committed to making “meaningful change in our society.”

“With an unwavering spirit of service, I stand ready to lend my support wherever and whenever it is needed, endeavoring to make a tangible impact on issues that matter most to our communities,” Wright wrote in a statement.

Utah News Dispatch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news source covering government, policy and the issues most impacting the lives of Utahns.


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