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Northern Utah US House race draws two new hopefuls, both wary of Trump's tone

Wednesday , February 14, 2018 - 5:00 AM1 comment

The slate of hopefuls for the U.S. House seat now held by Rep. Rob Bishop is growing.

Eric Eliason, an adjunct Utah State University professor and investment group partner from Logan, announced Tuesday his plans to make a bid for Northern Utah’s 1st District post with the new United Utah Party. Democrat Kurt Weiland of Bountiful, who runs a training and consulting company there, also plans to run for the seat.

Both hopefuls cited the tone of national political discourse, as exemplified by President Donald Trump, in their planned bids. They also singled out Bishop, a Republican who will be seeking his ninth term, for not taking a more critical stance against some of Trump’s more controversial pronouncements.

“I’ve really struggled with partisan politics. It’s one side or the other, which creates, I think, a real lack of discourse,” Eliason, 45, said by phone on Tuesday, before making a formal announcement in Salt Lake City. The United Utah Party has touted itself as appealing to Democrats and Republicans who are concerned their parties are getting too extreme, as well as more moderate independents.

The public should expect “dignity” from public officials, Eliason said, taking a jab at the Trump administration, without singling out any of the president’s specific proclamations.

“I think there needs to be times when the (Utah legislative) delegation speaks up,” Eliason continued. Bishop, at times, seems “afraid to express the need for dignity overall.”

Weiland, 72, a retired U.S. Army officer whose Bountiful home is actually outside the 1st District, offered tougher words. He filed his intent to run for the U.S. House last week with the Federal Election Commission.

“We have a government that lies to us, bullies us and has betrayed us,” Weiland said, alluding to the Trump administration. Silence in light of such conduct “is consent,” he continued, and Bishop “has not only remained silent, but he has drafted policies that support this very administration.”

Bishop campaign spokesman Andy Pierucci sidestepped questions about the criticism, saying the lawmaker’s focus is “on representing Utah’s 1st District and not on running for re-election.” Bishop will formally file his candidacy in March for what he has said would be his last term in the House, if he wins.

RELATED: U.S. Rep. Bishop to step down after next term, presuming he wins in 2018

RELATED: Ogden native plans Green Party bid for U.S. Rep. Bishop's House seat

Adam Davis announced last year that he will run for the seat as a Green Party hopeful.

Cathy Callow-Heusser last year announced plans to run for the seat as a Republican, then revealed last month on Facebook that she’d make a bid via the United Utah Party instead. On Tuesday, however, she said her plans are now uncertain.

She’s also thinking of making an independent bid for the U.S. House or running for another office in Park City, where she lives.

The 1st District covers much of Northern Utah, including northern Davis County and all of Weber, Box Elder, Cache and Morgan counties, among others.

‘A FRESH VOICE’

Eliason, a partner in jNivin, a group that invests in small companies, is making his first bid for elective office. He touted his “conservative values,” open-mindedness and willingness to debate ideas on their merits. The need for campaign finance reform and term limits are top issues.

Bishop gets most of his funding “from out-of-state special interests,” Eliason charged. “I really think if we’re going to get the integrity of our system improved, that’s got to change.”

He said he’d like to “stop the pendulum” in the debate over public lands, with policy changes going from one extreme to another, and thinks there’s an appetite for a new representative to replace Bishop. Bishop, from Brigham City, has easily won his past campaigns for the 1st District post.

“I’m finding quite a few people who think it’s time. To move forward, it sometimes takes a fresh voice and that’s what we’re looking for,” Eliason said. He has secured donations “in the six figures,” he said, while Bishop had $413,534 in campaign funds on hand as of Dec. 31 last year, according to the Federal Election Commission.

‘FLAT-OUT INDECENT’

Weiland — who unsuccessfully ran for the District 19 Utah House race in 2016, losing to Republican incumbent Raymond Ward — seized on to the idea of running for the U.S. House two to three months ago, worried Bishop wouldn’t face an opponent. He owns and operates Jefferson Smith Training and Consulting in Bountiful.

RELATED: House District 19 Rep. Ray Ward wins seat over Kurt Weiland

The overarching “umbrella issue,” he said, “is decency, and right now we have an administration that is just flat-out indecent.”

Federal law doesn’t require that U.S. House members live in the districts they represent in Congress, and Weiland said, if he wins, he’d stay put in Bountiful, actually located in Utah’s 2nd U.S. House district represented by Chris Stewart. Still, that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t represent district residents’ interests.

“I spent 23 years in the military,” he said, alluding to his U.S. Army service, “and I feel a kinship with Hill Air Force Base. ... I would stay true to the district and make sure their needs are met.”

When mulling a House bid as a Republican, Callow-Heusser said she had difficulty finding a campaign manager willing to work with her. “Everyone said they wouldn’t run a campaign against (Bishop) or they put me off,” she said.

RELATED: Park City area woman to challenge U.S. Rep. Bishop, cites Bears Ears issue

Callow-Heusser had been prepared recently to formally announce plans to run as a United Utah hopeful, she said, when told to hold off to give Eliason time to firm up his plans. If she ends up running as a United Utah hopeful, the winner between her and Eliason would be determined in June primary elections.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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