OGDEN — Rep. Lou Shurtliff, the incumbent in the District 10 Utah House post, has unfinished business.
Since taking over the seat in 2019, she’s been working on legislation related to kindergarten education, among other things. In vying for reelection, the Democrat wants to keep up the efforts. Republican Travis Campbell, though, has his own vision, making sure growth along the Wasatch Front doesn’t get unmanageable, and he’s challenging her for the seat.
Shurtliff is the only Democrat among Weber County’s delegation to the Utah legislature, and party leaders say keeping her in the post is a priority. Republicans, though, have their eyes on the District 10 seat, setting up a fierce battle for the post, representing parts of southern Ogden and South Ogden. Ballots are to be mailed out next week and voting culminates Nov. 3.
Shurtliff, who lives in Ogden, held the post from 1999 through 2008 and was reelected in 2018 after a decade hiatus. She describes her politics as in the middle and her demeanor as upbeat.
“I’m a moderate person. I’m very positive. I work well with the other side,” she said. In a state dominated by GOPers, she said she has no problem working across the aisle.
Campbell, a staffer in the office of U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop making his first bid for elective office, says he’s a conservative. Central in his thinking as a state lawmaker, he said, would be making sure the state is within its authority in acting.
“The first question we always need to ask ourselves — is this the proper role of the state?” said Campbell, who also lives in Ogden. The state shouldn’t look to the feds to resolve issues better handled here. At the same time, though, some issues are better left to county and local officials to manage.
On the issues, Shurtliff said education is and has been a priority. She’s a retired teacher who taught mainly at Ogden High School during her career. Hence, her desire to get back to the legislature to work on a measure that encourages increased kindergarten attendance.
As is, she suspects 85%-90% of Utah kids attend kindergarten. In Utah it’s not a requirement, however, and she’s working on a measure to incentivize parents who might not otherwise send their kids to the first formal year of schooling. Kindergarten is “the foundation,” Shurtliff said. “They’re learning to read. They’re learning the alphabet. They’re learning colors.”
Related to that, she’s worried about a proposed change to the Utah Constitution via a ballot question that could dilute the amount of funding going to education. The measure, Constitutional Amendment G, which she opposes, would allow use of income tax revenue, now reserved for education, for programming for the disabled as well. “For years I’ve fought to try to keep education funding,” she said.
Shurtliff also worries about what she views as excessive tax breaks and exemptions to energy companies and manufacturers. If some of the exemptions were reined in, she maintains, lawmakers would have no problem adequately funding the state’s general fund, the main portion of the budget.
Campbell, who says he’s always been politically and civically engaged, maintains that contending with growth and expansion along the Wasatch Front is the priority issue.
“We just need to be prepared for that growth,” he said, and can’t let it overwhelm.
Part of his focus, he said, would be on making sure there are ample educational opportunities for those interested in the trades and trade jobs, where there’s likely to be a big need. He also puts an emphasis on making sure there are good-paying jobs close to home so local residents don’t face long work commutes. Keeping people working close to home has the added benefit of reducing auto traffic and emissions, helping clean the air, another issue in the rapidly growing area.
“Just making sure we’re prepared for that growth, we’re meeting it head on,” Campbell said.