OGDEN — Calvin Musselman says economic development would be a focus if he's elected to the District 9 Utah House seat.
Bringing good-paying jobs to Weber County will keep younger residents entering the job market from leaving, preventing brain drain and promoting family unity. "That is going to be key to what I do and what I want to accomplish," said the West Haven real estate agent.
Kathie Darby, also vying for the post, cites the time she'd be able to put into the job as a retired U.S. Internal Revenue Service analyst. Moreover, she'd be able to put her analytical skills to good use, scrutinizing state spending to assure fiscal responsibility.
"I think they need to analyze how they're spending money," said the West Haven woman.
Darby, a Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for the District 9 post in 2016, and Musselman, a Republican seeking office for the first time, face off on Nov. 6 for the seat covering central Ogden, northern Roy and much of West Haven. Either way, District 9 residents will get a a new representative — Jeremy Peterson, the four-term GOP incumbent from Ogden, isn't seeking re-election.
In her 2016 bid, Darby fell short, losing to Peterson by a 56 percent-44 percent margin. This go-round, many Weber County Democrats, typically the underdog to GOPers, are pinning their hopes on her candidacy. Darby takes nothing for granted, but says she's putting in a great effort.
"I'm working the hardest and I'm the most committed," she said. "This is what I'm doing for a full-time job. I'm literally working the hardest."
At the same time, though Musselman has a larger campaign war chest to draw from, she says she has more donors, even if they give less money, on average. "I'm the people's candidate," she said.
Musselman, meanwhile, has some heavy-hitters behind him. He's got the endorsement of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, among other GOP leaders, and U.S. Senate hopeful Mitt Romney will appear at a campaign event at the Musselman home next week. His wife, Dawnell Musselman, is a member of the West Haven City Council.
According to campaign finance reports filed with Utah election officials, Musselman had raised $38,911 for his bid as of Sept. 26 and had $13,010 remaining. He had six contributions of $1,000 or more in the most recent reporting period, June 15 through Sept. 26, including $5,000 from the Utah House Republican Election Committee, $3,000 from the Weber County Republican Party and $2,500 from the Northern Wasatch Association of Realtors. Musselman earlier provided $20,000 of his own money for the campaign.
Darby had raised $11,416 for her campaign and had $9,559 left as of Sept. 26. Her largest donation in the most recent reporting period was $750, from the Committee for a Democratic Majority.
'NEEDS TO BE A COALITION'
Musselman's focus on economic development stems, in part, from a desire to create economic opportunities to keep his kids close to home when they enter the job market. But he thinks it's a common hope among many in the district.
Like many Weber County leaders, he points to Utah and Salt Lake counties, with higher median household incomes than in Weber County, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. More needs to be done in Salt Lake City to promote Weber County as a destination when new businesses are trying to figure out where to locate, bringing good-paying jobs with them. To do so, he says, Northern Utah leaders — from Weber, Davis and Box Elder counties — need to do more to band together and collectively promote the region.
"There's only so much you can do as an individual. There needs to be a coalition," Musselman said.
Beyond that, Musselman said more needs to be done to advocate for Weber State University and its role in promoting economic development, via the degrees and educational programs it offers, perhaps. Similarly, more money needs to be pumped into primary and secondary education, and increasing the tax base via economic development can help in that regard.
For Darby, environmental issues, keeping the air clean, and fighting domestic violence are big concerns. "I just don't think they spend on these things," she said.
Funding for education, too, needs a closer look. The fix, at least in part, may not necessarily be increasing funding, though, but better utilizing existing resources. "I just think the money needs to be spent better," she said.
More generally, she said the Utah legislature lacks diversity, singling out the professional backgrounds of the current slate of lawmakers and their party affiliation. She can provide a new perspective.
Around 80 percent of lawmakers are GOPers, she said, calling that "very unbalanced." Beyond that, a large chunk of lawmakers, maybe 40 percent of them, according to her own investigative efforts, are business owners.
"It's not a bad thing. I just think there are enough of them," Darby said.
She thinks the minimum wage needs to be boosted and calls for gender pay equity, saying addressing such issues can help in the fight on intergenerational poverty.