Democrats in Weber County can have it tough seeking elective office given the GOP dominance in the area.
As Election Day nears, Zach Thomas, chairman of the party in Weber County, sees room for optimism, though, and Democratic partisans here are pinning their hopes on four Utah House races, for the District 8, 9, 10 and 11 seats. The four Democrats vying for the posts “are some of the hardest-working candidates I’ve seen,” Thomas said, noting also that Districts 8, 9 and 10, historically, have had a higher concentration of residents voting Democratic.
Another Democratic partisan, Alan Naumann, who created a group called the Flip 7 Committee, is putting a focus on the District 8 and 9 contests, featuring Democrats Deana Froerer and Kathie Darby. He ranks the seats among seven Utah House posts statewide that he thinks can be flipped from red to blue.
Froerer and Darbie are “not only good candidates, but they are running for the second time,” Naumann said, alluding to the experience they gained from their prior bids, albeit unsuccessful, for the Utah legislature.
Even so, Republicans in Weber County — who generally have the upper hand — are hardly cowering. As is, Republicans hold all seven House seats and all three Senate posts serving Weber County.
“I think the Republican Party reflects fairly accurately the values of the people in the county,” said Steve Waldrip, contending with Froerer for the District 8 post, which covers Ogden’s East Bench, part of Harrisville and the Ogden Valley. Republican Gage Froerer, Deana Froerer’s brother-in-law, now holds the District 8 seat, but he’s not seeking reelection and instead seeks a post on the Weber County Commission.
The Weber County Republican Party, too, expressed optimism. “We are confident that voters will recognize in (the GOP candidates) the conservative philosophy that is the foundation of good governance. Our current Weber county Republican officials have provided excellent public service. We are also excited with the vision and qualities of our new candidates,” the party state in a statement.
In all, seven Utah House posts serving Weber County — the District 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 29 seats — are up for grabs on Nov. 6, along with one Utah Senate seat serving the county, the District 18 post. And even if Republicans hold sway here and put the damper on Democratic aspirations, there will be change after Election Day. The incumbents in four House posts, Republicans Justin Fawson in District 7, Gage Froerer in District 8, Jeremy Peterson in District 9 and Dixon Pitcher in District 10, decided against seeking reelection, paving the way for fresh faces.
Calvin Musselman is potentially one of those fresh faces. He’s the Republican candidate facing off against Darby in the race for the District 9 post, which serves Ogden’s older core, part of West Haven and northern Roy.
In his campaigning, he senses unease among some. “I know there’s some angst out there among constituents, especially when it comes to federal issues,” he said.
Generally speaking, though, most people he’s encountered share “conservative values,” boding well for the Republican, and he’s getting “really positive” feedback from would-be voters in his campaigning.
On top of that, says Waldrip, the Republican hopefuls can cite GOP dominance over Democrats in the Utah legislature — 62-13 in the House and 24-5 in the Senate — to leverage voter support.
“I’m optimistic that voters will recognize the value of electing a Republican representative who will be able to participate in the majority caucuses,” which prioritize the bills that get heard and set the political agenda, said Waldrip.
Indeed, whatever optimism Democrats may have, Deana Froerer takes nothing for granted in her House bid. “It’s still an uphill battle. I would not say it’s easy,” she said.
But having tried for the District 19 post in the Utah Senate in 2016, losing to incumbent Allen Christensen, she has campaign experience under her belt. Moreover, the House district is much smaller than the Senate district, making it easier to travel to varied events.
And in a seeming nod to GOP strength here, both Darby and Froerer emphasize their middle-of-the-road, moderate approach. Darby, who ran for the District 9 seat in 2016, losing to Peterson, has deep roots in Weber County she said, having worked for numerous non-profit groups that advocate for those in need. “I can relate to people,” she said.
Even there, though, the Democrats don’t necessarily have a monopoly. Waldrip noted what he sees as a growing number of independent and unaffiliated voters, disaffected by partisan politics.
“I recognize and share their frustration with the divisiveness of party politics. I will listen to voices on all sides of the issues, because I believe our best policies come from the fusion of many perspectives,” he said.
The District 10 race, another focus of Democrats, features Democrat LaWanna “Lou” Shurtliff, Republican Lorraine Brown and Terry Schow, a Republican who’s waging a write-in campaign. Shurtliff previously held the District 10 seat, which serves parts of southern Ogden and South Ogden, and Thomas said Schow’s campaign could split the GOP vote, boding well for the Democrat.
Republican Kelly Miles seeks his second term in the District 11 post — the fourth race cited by Thomas as potentially winnable by Dems — challenged by Democrat Jason Allen, son of Washington Terrace Mayor Mark Allen. District 11 covers parts of Riverdale, Washington Terrace and South Ogden and extends into northern Davis County.
REPUBLICANS OUTRAISE DEMOCRATS
If money is a gauge of potential electoral success, the Republicans in the District 8, 9, 10 and 11 races have the edge. According to campaign finance reports filed last June for the most recent reporting period, the GOP candidates, some using their own money, had outraised their Democratic counterparts:
District 8: As of June 14, the end of the reporting period, Waldrip, who faced a battle in the GOP primary for the seat, had raised $22,755, including $10,000 of his own money, and had $4,632 left. Froerer, who didn’t face a primary fight, had raised $12,585, including $501 of her own money, and had $8,314 left.
District 9: Musselman had raised $21,680, including $20,000 of his own money, and had $5,683 left. Darby had raised $7,384 and had $4,474 left.
District 10: Brown had raised $22,350, including $18,750 of her own money, and had $1,570 left while Schow had raised $12,832, including $2,104 of his own money, and had $19 left. Shurtliff had raised $959, including $500 of her own money, and had $946 remaining.
District 11: Miles had raised $4,329 and had $3,111 left. Allen had raised $941 and had $120 left.
The other legislative posts serving Weber County that are up for grabs on Nov. 6 and the candidates running for each are:
House District 7, featuring Republican Kyle Andersen, currently holding the post, and Democrat David Owen. Weber County Republicans tabbed Andersen earlier this year to fill out Fawson’s term through 2018 after Fawson stepped down to move from Utah. District 7 covers parts of northern Ogden, North Ogden and Pleasant View.
House District 29, featuring Republican Lee Perry and Democrat Kerry Wayne. District 29 covers parts of Marriott-Slaterville, Plain City and Farr West and extends into Box Elder County.