A decision on where he’ll live if he wins Utah’s 1st District U.S. House race will come later, says Blake Moore, the Republican hopeful for the seat, and the odds-on favorite.
“It’s too early to make any type of determination. I need to focus on the election, make sure that we win,” he said.
Moore grew up in Ogden, inside the 1st District, but he actually lives in Salt Lake City, outside the district. The U.S. Constitution states only that U.S. House members must be residents of the states where their districts are located, so, by law, he can stay put in the capital city. The residency question, though, has raised eyebrows among some, notably his fellow GOP contenders during the primary and now from his Democratic opponent, Darren Parry.
Living in the district, Parry said, helps promote a better understanding of the issues and concerns of the people in its confines. “It’s critical. If you’re going to represent somebody, you ought to know who you’re representing, right? That’s where I’m coming from,” he said. Parry currently lives in Providence in the Cache Valley, and he’s lived his whole life in the district, he said, including prior stints in Davis and Weber counties.
The 1st District, now represented by Rep. Rob Bishop, a Brigham City GOPer, is overwhelmingly Republican. Bishop, who isn’t seeking reelection, easily won in his nine bids for the seat, garnering over 60% of the vote each time. The district covers northern Davis County, Weber County and eight other northern and northeastern Utah counties.
So whether the residency question would be enough to trip up Moore’s bid come Election Day, Nov. 3, is debatable. Indeed, though this is his first bid for office, Moore defeated three other GOPers living inside the district in last June’s primary, all of them with elective experience. They are Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson, Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt and Kerry Gibson, a former Weber County commissioner and Utah House member.
Still, the identity of a candidate comes at least in part from where he or she lives. Beyond that, residency bears on where power is focused. And if Moore and the three other incumbent U.S. House members win in November and Moore stays in Salt Lake City, Utah’s entire federal delegation will come from a narrow corridor ranging from Provo in Utah County to Farmington in Davis County. Incumbent Reps. Chris Stewart, John Curtis and Ben McAdams come from Farmington, Provo and Salt Lake City, respectively. U.S. Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee come from Holladay and Alpine.
Moore told the Standard-Examiner during the primary that his intention would be to move to the 1st District if he wins, though he said he’d wait to see how redistricting settled out in the wake of the 2020 Census. Political boundaries are potentially subject to review and redrawing after each decennial head count. “Eden would be where I choose, the other God’s country in Utah besides the Cache Valley,” he said at the time.
Now, he’s saying he’d have to factor the interests of his family, any boundary changes and how best to represent the 1st District in deciding whether and where to relocate. “The boundaries are going to change and my wife and I will figure that out. We have a lot going on and there’s lots of things to consider,” he said.
Regardless, he said his commitment to the 1st District is rock solid. He grew up in Ogden and graduated from Ogden High School in 1998. What’s more, living in eastern Salt Lake City gives him ready access to the eastern portion of the 1st District extending to Uintah County against the Colorado line and the northern portion, into Davis and Weber counties up to Idaho. “I know how strongly connected I am to the district,” he said, noting his extensive travels since the primary to meet with local political officials, agricultural representatives, Hill Air Force Base reps and more.
More generally, he touted the range of experiences that pulled him from Ogden and ultimately landed him in Salt Lake City as a plus in representing the 1st District. He left Utah to work in the U.S. foreign service in Asia and Washington, D.C., before moving back to the state and taking a job in Salt Lake City as a management consultant.
“When I came back from Washington, D.C., we moved to Davis County and then when we were about to have our next child, which ended up being twins, we ended up moving closer to my wife’s parents (in the Salt Lake City area),” he said. “Thats life. That happens.”
‘I THINK IT’S A PROBLEM’Parry, the Democratic contender, takes pride in his extensive first-hand experience across the 1st District over the years. Now 60, he serves as a leader in the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation.
“I think it’s a problem that (Moore) doesn’t live in the 1st District,” Parry said. To truly understand the values of the people to be represented “you kind of need to live there and raise your family there, in the midst there. I’m just proud that myself, I’ve lived in Davis County, Weber County. I’ve lived in the Uintah Basin. Our tribal office is in Brigham City. I live in Cache Valley now.”
His experience, Parry went on, deepens his ability to connect with the people of the 1st District and to understand their concerns. “I believe I know better than anybody else the values of the people and the problems that we have, what rural Utah looks like. I just feel like I’m the best candidate because of those things,” he said.
Zach Thomas, chairperson of the Weber County Democratic Party, pointed to the contrast between urban Salt Lake City, where Moore currently lives, and the many rural corners of the 1st District. That will make it hard for him to connect and sync with the district. By contrast, though Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams doesn’t live in Utah’s 4th District, he at least lives in an area that resembles it.
Lacy Richards, chairperson of the Weber County Republican Party, has no concerns with Moore’s residency. She’s met with him and has been impressed with his energy and outlook.
“I think he truly has the good of everyone who lives in the 1st District at heart,” she said. “I feel he’s really connected to the people here and the things that matter to them.”