Although they won’t officially declare their candidacy until March, hopefuls for seats in the state legislature are getting ready for the race. One Wasatch Back resident wants to make the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot.
Katy Owens is a bit of a policy wonk. She specializes in election consulting and volunteers with the League of Women Voters. She also volunteers with Voterise, a non-partisan organization that registers young voters. Now, she plans to run as a Democrat for Senate District 19 because she wants to see a state legislature that’s more representative of its constituents.
“Having studied public policy, and having looked at best practices and what really makes good policy is you really need representation from everybody, from all different types of professions, all different income levels, age groups, walks of life," Owens said. "I'm a mom with small kids, and right now I feel that there are a lot of policies that affect me and my family and my community that are not adequately being represented in the legislature.”
Owens lives in Pinebrook, which is part of Senate District 19 and currently represented by Republican Sen. Allen Christensen. The district covers Weber, Morgan and parts of Summit County and is comprised of rural and urban voters. Owens believes all residents care about issues that affect their families and communities—health care, education, air quality. But in 2018, after voters approved three ballot initiatives, Utah legislators replaced two of them: medical cannabis and Medicaid expansion, with Christensen sponsoring legislation to replace the latter. The third issue–the redistricting initiative, will soon be addressed once the 2020 census is completed. For that, Owens says voters need a voice at the table.
“They went back, and they made significant changes to those ballot measures that voters approved, and so I'm concerned about that as well," Owens said. "As we're going into 2020, we're going to see redistricting, so a redrawing of the lines throughout Utah, and so I'm concerned about that. I'd like to see a voice of moderation—more voices of moderation—kind of in that process, however that process ends up happening.”
Senate District 19 has been represented by a Republican for decades. Owens says changing demographics and frustration with national politics have changed the game, making the seat winnable for a democratic candidate.
"There are a lot of unaffiliated voters that are independent thinkers, that are really looking at candidates and making their choice based on candidates, rather than party, in a lot of cases," Owens said. "Which makes it possible to reach out to people on a more personal level, to really listen to people, really listen to what their concerns are and maybe win some of those votes that are not just straight Democrats, for instance."
Owens is joined by another Summit County-based democrat in the race for Senate District 19. Chris Neville recently announced his intent to run for the seat, after a failed 2018 run for House District 53. KPCW reached out to Sen. Allen Christensen to confirm whether he’s running for re-election but has not received a response by the time of this report.