OGDEN — Win or lose in November, Grant Protzman, a Democratic hopeful for a Utah House seat this cycle, wants to leave behind a positive legacy when the dust settles after Election Day.
"So often political campaigns leave negativity and bad feeling and ill will," said Protzman, seeking the District 7 post, which serves parts of northern Ogden, North Ogden and more. "At the end of this election cycle, we want to leave the community better than it was when we started."
With that in mind, he helped organize a food, socks and towel drive on Memorial Day to collect supplies for those in need, those adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Jason Allen, a Democratic Utah House hopeful from Washington Terrace, organized a food drive for those in need on Independence Day and the Weber County Democratic Party is sponsoring yet another one on Saturday.
Of course helping those in need is at the root of the varied initiatives. The Weber County Democratic Party also hosted a food drive on June 6, and all told, that, the Memorial Day effort and the July 4 drive generated 5,240 pounds in donations for varied organizations that aid the jobless, the homeless and others who need help. The food drive this Saturday, a drive-through operation, is to be held in the parking lot of Mount Ogden Junior High School at 3260 Harrison Blvd. from 8:30 a.m. until noon.
But in a campaign season marked by the inability to press the flesh and make one-on-one contacts because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the initiatives serve another purpose — calling attention to the party and its candidates. Several candidates are expected to take part in Saturday's effort, including Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Chris Peterson and Alex McDonald, running for a Weber County Commission seat.
"It's a name recognition thing, a honk-and-wave opportunity as we're trying to reach out, be visible in the age of masks," said Kate Miller, who handles communications for the Weber County Democratic Party.
Zach Thomas, chairperson of the Weber County party, emphasizes the giving aspect of the varied drives.
"Our slogan for the county party is 'We Care.' With everything we're doing, we're trying to live by that," he said. The organizations helped thus far include Lantern House, the Ogden Rescue Mission, Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership and, this coming Saturday, Catholic Community Services of Utah.
That said, McDonald noted the lower profile of Democrats in Weber County, where Republicans generally hold sway. Holding public events like the food drives can help bolster the party.
Allen, challenging incumbent Kelly Miles, a Republican, in the race for the District 11 Utah House seat, noted the difficulties in campaigning. He and his volunteers are avoiding door knocking "as much as possible" because they don't want to run the risk of getting or giving COVID-19. To get word out about the food drive, he and his supporters placed door hangers throughout District 11, but didn't initiate contacts with residents.
Protzman, who will be facing Republican Ryan Wilcox in November in the District 7 Utah House race, says his Memorial Day drive was strictly about service. He held it with McDonald. Still, he also sees such activities as a vital part of civic involvement and important in connecting with others.
"Good representation, good government consists of more than just sitting in a seat and casting votes and talking on the phone," Protzman said. Such efforts are a way of "getting in the trenches" with others and hearing their view on things.
Lacy Richards, chairperson of the Weber County Republican Party, said Republicans haven't yet charted a comprehensive strategy ahead of the Nov. 3 general election. But she suspects it won't be a typical year given COVID-19 and the challenges the pandemic poses to making contact with voters. "I think campaigns are going to have to be real flexible and work with the circumstances that are present," she said.