Amid allegations of adultery dating to a prior marriage, Darren Parry, the Democratic candidate for the 1st District U.S. House seat, says his campaign is moving forward.
“I’ve made mistakes in my life in the past and I’ve learned from them,” he told the Standard-Examiner.
Democratic leaders, meanwhile, are offering a mixed response to the revelations, Parry’s candidacy and prospects of winning the seat.
“I’ve definitely heard a lot of people in the party who have concerns with that. ... I’ve heard a lot of frustrated people,” said Zach Thomas, chairman of the Weber County Democratic Party.
It’s tough enough for Democrats running for the 1st District seat given GOP dominance in the area, he said. The adultery allegations make it even tougher, he went on, requiring Parry to earn back the support of dismayed Democrats on top of securing the backing of GOPers and independents to win the post. Blake Moore is the GOP contender for the seat, now held by Rep. Rob Bishop, who’s not seeking reelection.
“That seat is definitely an uphill battle as it is. It will be difficult to bounce back from that,” Thomas said. The 1st District covers Weber County, northern Davis County and eight other counties of northern and northeastern Utah, and Bishop won by wide margins in each of his nine bids for the post, garnering at least 60% of the vote each time.
Cheryl Nunn, active in the Davis County Democratic Party and a Utah House hopeful, sent Parry a pointed email after the revelations emerged in a pair of Salt Lake Tribune newspaper stories, asking that he end his campaign. She provided a copy of the email to the Standard-Examiner and said many in the party are “deeply upset” over the revelations.
“Please do the right thing now that our Utah Democratic Party leadership requests, please resign from your campaign effective immediately!” wrote Nunn, who’s from Layton and running for the District 16 Utah House post. “You can’t win, and you will only do great damage to your party and your fellow Democrats’ reputation!”
Jamie Cheek, who narrowly lost to Parry in the Democratic primary for the 1st District seat in June, worries the news will hurt Democrats seeking Utah House seats down ticket. She also hopes state party officials look into the matter. “I have had several people reach out to me with concern,” said Cheek, who’s been aiding Weber County Democrats seeking office since her primary loss.
Representatives from the Utah Democratic Party didn’t immediately respond to queries from the Standard-Examiner for comment. Parry, who lives in Providence in Cache County and has had leadership roles with the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, said he has the backing of the state party.
THE CHARGESThe Salt Lake Tribune reported earlier this week about disputes between Parry and one of his ex-wives, Michele Parry, over child-support payments after their divorce. Online court records indicate that at times he was more than $70,000 behind in payments in the late 2000s, though as of fall 2011 he had covered what he owed.
More dramatically, perhaps, one of his daughters said in an online response to the Salt Lake Tribune article that her father had numerous affairs, including one with her best friend’s mother. She also charged that Parry “turns his head” to her and her six siblings “in times of trouble or hardship.” The daughter, Hailee Parry, confirmed the message was from her with the Tribune, though neither she nor Michele Parry responded to Standard-Examiner queries seeking comment.
While acknowledging “mistakes in my life,” Darren Parry wouldn’t get into details. But he countered the characterization offered by his daughter.
“I paid child support, I have a wonderful relationship with six of my kids and their families and I’m moving on,” he said. He lamented the state of his relationship with Hailee Parry, saying he loved her and has provided her with money when she’s needed it.
Some Democratic Party officials in the 1st District hadn’t heard the news from the Tribune articles. Meredith Reed, chairperson of the Summit County Democratic Party, was aware of the revelations but questioned whether the news would have any impact since the 1st District is already solidly Republican.
“We’re in one of the most Republican districts. No, I don’t think it’ll have an impact. I think it’s a very big uphill battle. I think it was going to be a very big, challenging race,” she said.
More generally, she offered a measure of empathy. “Certainly, people might be disappointed. Families are complicated. People’s lives are complicated and a lot of people understand that,” she said.
In politics, particularly at the federal level, though, such revelations can be expected to become fodder for public scrutiny. “I think anyone going into politics at that level should expect for everything in their life to be potentially raised,” she said.
Nunn may throw her support to Moore, the GOP contender in the 1st District race, if Parry doesn’t step aside, she said. She was abandoned by an ex-husband who didn’t pay child support, she said, and the news hits close to home for her.
Matt Lusty, campaign manager for Moore, deferred comment on the matter. “We’re continuing to run an issues-based campaign and we’re not going to comment on the personal life of another candidate,” Lusty said.
Election Day is Nov. 3.