Congress Candidates

Longtime U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop is currently running for his ninth term in Congress unopposed in the primary, but it remains to be seen who will be his challenger in November.

Chad Fairbanks III and Kevin Probasco, both Republicans, did not qualify for the primary on June 26, clearing the way for Bishop to be the 2018 GOP nominee for Utah’s 1st Congressional District, which includes Cache and Rich counties.

Meanwhile, two Democrats are battling it out to be Bishop’s challenger as two candidates from third parties are campaigning as well.

Here’s a look at the remaining candidates running for the seat in Utah’s 1st Congressional District:

Eric Eliason, 45, a member of the United Utah party, is an investor and adjunct professor at Utah State University’s Jon M. Huntsman School of Business. He was born in Logan, grew up in Burley, Idaho, and has been living in Logan for the last 16 years.

Eliason has never run for public office, but he has always felt Utah has never been given a choice beyond Republican and Democrat when it comes to candidates running for office.

“Most of us don’t fit nicely in those two boxes,” he said. “I’ve been disappointed we haven’t had candidates that are more moderate. When United Utah came along, which represented a more moderate position, here was an opportunity for me to run.”

Eliason believes the two biggest issues right now are campaign finance and healthcare.

“They talk about ‘drain the swamp.’ Campaign finance is one the main things that creates the swamp,’” said Eliason, echoing a campaign phrase from President Donald Trump.

The congressional candidate would like to see “a transparent conversation” about campaign finance or something that “at least gets the conversation going.”

“To where other legislators are going to have to held accountable,” Eliason said. “They’re not being held accountable. No one’s talking about it, right?”

On healthcare, Eliason believes costs are higher than they should be.

“And yet we refuse to talk about it, once again, because congressmen are paid not to talk about it,” he said. “They keep their jobs by not addressing the issue of healthcare.”

Eliason wants to reform the U.S. healthcare system so that people know how much they’re paying for procedures and make it so states are allowed to negotiate pharmaceutical rates.

Lee Castillo, 40, a Democrat, is a clinical social worker at the Utah State Hospital. He lives in Layton and was born and raised there.

“I want to run not only to represent the Democrats but all people here in … District 1,” he said. “I could no longer … listen to the divisive rhetoric that’s coming from the president and his administration. They have attacked so many different groups of people … and their actions currently … drive me to want to respond.”

Contrasting himself from Weiland, his opponent, Castillo said he lives in the District he is running to represent, brings a “youthful voice” and has the ability to connect with everyone.

Castillo feels the two biggest issues facing Congress today are healthcare and the environment.

“I would definitely think universal healthcare is something that I would work toward,” he said.

On the environment, Castillo cites air quality as a major issue. He believes some regulations that were rolled back by the Trump administration need to be reinstated.

Kurt Weiland, 72, a Democrat, is a retired Army veteran who currently owns an international leadership training company.

Though he lives in Bountiful, which is not part of District 1, Weiland believes “it matters less where I live and more how I serve.” Congressional candidates don’t have to live in the district they serve to be eligible to run.

Weiland was asked to run for Congress by a friend.

“She said, ‘Rob Bishop is running unopposed.’ I said, ‘So?’ She said, ‘We think you have a certain set of skills that could do this.’ I was reluctant,” Weiland said.

Since that time, Weiland met with people all over District 1 and those interactions have led him to believe “people want change.”

“It’s growing more than just following up on what somebody asked me to do,” he said.

Weiland said his two biggest priorities as a congressman would be advocating term limits for members of Congress and doing away with retirement packages.

“If term limits are good enough for the presidency, they’re good enough for Congress,” Weiland said.

He would also hold monthly town halls with constituents and let them ask the questions they would like to have answered. Weiland said too many politicians let their aides pick which questions their boss should respond to.

“Come on! The really tough questions are either not in the stack or they’re way down at the bottom,” Weiland said. “People ache for contact.”

Adam Davis, 33, a member of the Green Party, is a consultant for a software company in South Jordan.

Like Weiland, Davis does not live in District 1. But he lived in Ogden for 30 years.

“I understand the issues that people there are facing, and I understand how we got there,” Davis wrote in an email. “I don’t think it’s going to be difficult for people to see that.”

He has never run for public office, but he felt the need to run for Congress in his hometown district.

“As someone who was born and raised in Ogden, and having been through the economic struggles that people in Ogden face as a very blue collar town, I feel uniquely positioned to address issues like workers’ rights,” Davis wrote in an email. “Making sure that as we move forward, we don’t leave behind the people who do the work that makes our society run.”

Davis is proposing a worker’s bill of rights.

“This would include a job guarantee with local, state, and tribal governments empowered to act as ‘employer of last resort,’” he wrote in an email “This would replace how we currently handle unemployment and ensure everyone is able to get a job that will pay enough to meet their needs.”

Davis is also in favor of a single-payer healthcare system.

“It’s working all across the world and there’s no reason we couldn’t do it,” he said.

Bishop, 66, said the 2018 election will be his last as a candidate for District 1 because it coincides with chairmanship term limits. Bishop is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

“I still have those positions in Congress that make the biggest difference for the first district and for Utah,” he said.

When it comes to the two biggest issues facing Congress, Bishop said those are always going to change, but the relationship between the federal government and the states is at least one.

“State and local government is always better in providing services than the federal government simply because they are close the people,” Bishop said. “It’s the relationship between the federal government and the states that is out of balance. If we right that relationship, most of the other problems can be solved.”

On that note, House Speaker Paul Ryan recently gave Bishop authority to head the Task Force on Intergovernmental Affairs.

“It’s not state’s having power or the federal government having power over the states,” Bishop said. “It is to clearly define what the spheres of responsibility are so that each can do the job.”

Kevin Opsahl is a staff writer and features editor at The Herald Journal. He can be reached at 435-752-2121 ext. 1016 or by email at kopsahl@hjnews.com