Waldrip drops out, 2 GOPers remain in race for District 8 Utah House post
OGDEN — What had been a three-candidate race on the Republican side for the District 8 seat in the Utah House is suddenly a two-person contest.
Steve Waldrip, the two-term incumbent, announced Wednesday that he is bowing out of the race to put more focus on the Rocky Mountain Homes Fund, a nonprofit entity he helped create that helps working families own homes. On the GOP side, that leaves Jason Kyle and Kimberly Cozzens, who will face off at Saturday’s Utah Republican Party convention.
Monica Hall is running as a Democrat for the seat, which covers part of Ogden’s East Bench and the Ogden Valley area, seeping into a small portion of Morgan County.
Waldrip, more moderate than his two GOP challengers, said he’ll finish his term, which goes through the year. His announcement, though, puts a twist in the race only days before the GOP faithful weigh in on candidates at the party convention.
“I am leaving the race because I have a unique opportunity over the next few years to make a significant impact in housing availability and affordability with the social benefit investment fund I co-founded. The Rocky Mountain Homes Fund addresses a huge need in our state and will require all of my time and attention to manage and direct the current and projected growth,” Waldrip said in a statement to GOP delegates that he also provided to the Standard-Examiner. “I believe this is where I can have the greatest impact for the good of our community right now.”
Waldrip had already secured a spot on the June 28 primary ballot via collection of signatures on petitions, but now Saturday’s Utah Republican Party convention will serve to determine which GOPer makes it to the ballot.
Both Kyle and Cozzens could end up on the June 28 primary ballot if neither garners more than 60% support at the convention. But if one garners more than 60% backing, that candidate alone moves on and will make it directly to the November general election ballot against Hall.
In his campaigning, Kyle, from Hunstville, cites concern about the possible influx of “California-type policies” in Utah, which he describes as “insane.” Utah lawmakers “need to fight back against that,” he said. He unsuccessfully ran for the District 8 post in 2018.
In varied posts on his Facebook page, all before Wednesday’s news, Kyle also took several jabs at Waldrip. Among other things, he cited the incumbent’s apparent support for measures that promote high-density housing and said Waldrip “either is not truly pro-life or he has given up.”
Cozzens, running for office for the first time, cited inspiration from an array of conservative lawmakers in throwing her hat in the ring, including U.S. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and former Utah Rep. Steve Christiansen.
“Their passion helped me want to learn more,” particularly their passion regarding the U.S. Constitution, Cozzens said. She’s drawn to conservatives “who are not afraid to stand up for conservative values.”
Cozzens, from Huntsville, also contrasted herself with Waldrip, who’s from the Eden area. “I was more conservative. I lean on the Constitution,” she said.
Last month, before Wednesday’s news, Waldrip had said in a Facebook post that he’d typically tell those who asked him that he was running again because work remains in the Utah legislature. Inspired by a rally that day in Salt Lake City called to support Ukraine, facing invasion from Russia, he said there was more to it.
Seeing such a demonstration, “I then remember the real work in our state,” he wrote in the March 2 post. “It is to show that our greatness comes from our goodness, and that the only way for us to be great is for us to be good.”
Kyle and Cozzens offer similar views in several areas. Both expressed strong pro-life stances and both identified education — a hot topic in Utah due to debate over critical race theory and use of masks in schools during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — as a key issue.
Cozzens, mainly a stay-at-home mom these days between campaigning and some substitute teaching, emphasized the importance of making sure parents have a say in educational matters.
“I want parents to have a voice at school board meetings without the fear of experiencing negative repercussions,” she said. She’s not heard of parents within the Weber School District, where she lives, facing backlash for speaking out, but the possibility, generally speaking, “inches closer and closer.”
Kyle, who works in manufacturing management and has a background in chemical engineering, said the public needs to set parameters for classroom curriculum, leaving other matters out of schools. “We teach values in the home,” he said.
At the same time, medical privacy is a big concern for both. The issue has gained steam for some stemming from rules and guidelines implemented during the pandemic requiring people in certain circumstances to prove that they received the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Plain and simple, you should not have to share your medical information to enter a place of business here in this state or anywhere in this country,” Cozzens said on her website. “You should not have to share your private medical information with your employer in order to keep your job.”
Kyle expressed similar sentiments, particularly with regard to employers requiring vaccination among employees. “People shouldn’t be losing their jobs if they don’t want to be vaccinated,” Kyle said.
He voiced support for a measure put forward during the 2022 legislative session that would have prohibited public places, the government and employers from requiring vaccinations, House Bill 60. Waldrip voted against the measure, Kyle pointed out, but though it ultimately passed in the Utah House, it never got a vote in the Senate and faded.
Kyle said he “stands up for women’s sports” and supported House Bill 11, the measure that bans participation by transgender athletes in girls high school sports in Utah. It passed in the legislature, Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed it and then lawmakers overrode the veto during a special session last month.