Lack of viable candidate brings apathy
A great deal of knashing of teeth and anxiety accompanied the redistricting of political representation at the state and national level as it relates to Carbon County last summer and fall.
When the census came out, many in our community knew instinctively what was coming. The rhetoric began from both the Democrats and the Republicans about what was going to happen. Lines would be drawn, not only in the sand but somewhere in our county so that in the first time in years, more than a small percentage of Carbon's population would be represented in the state house of representatives by someone other than a Carbonite.
After numerous meetings around the state, including one at the Carbon County courthouse, the members of the reapportionment committee retreated the to that bastion of democracy at the state capitol and along with the leadership of the legislative branch of Utah did pretty much what everyone expected; they sliced Carbon geographically in half when it comes to representation in the house. That means everyone in Price and east are still in house district 69. Those of us west of the Price City limits are in 67.
House district 67 is represented by a Republican named Darin Peterson from Nephi. His district encompasses a third of Carbon Counties population (a bit over 6000 people), a large part of Sanpete County (about 10,000 people), a small section of Utah County (about 14,000 people) and some of Juab County. Peterson is well spoken of by both Republicans and Democrats, but regardless of party affiliation, the change will make a difference in how much of our county is represented at the state. Peterson understands rural issues; he is a rancher himself. But no one understands our area like people from here because while we are rural in some ways, we also have an energy and industrial presence in this county that makes our situation very unique.
When the change took place there were numerous news stories about it and a great deal of criticism from many quarters. I personally expected that out cry to mean a real fight this fall in the elections since beginning in January of 2003 this change will come into effect.
But now a new chapter in this whole process has been written. Possibly it is a chapter of the story that is more important and actually more telling than the story of a majority party that rammed through changes that even the conservative Wall Street Journal called unfair last fall after they were announced.
We often hear from politicians who bemoan the fact that more people don't utilize their right and responsibility to vote. Yet what about when a party has a unique chance to harness the anger of voters over an issue yet fail to take advantage of that situation, thereby leaving voters almost no choice at all?
That is the case in house district 67. Last Tuesday morning I checked on the filings for state and local offices since the deadline was Monday at 5 p.m. There were a multitude of candidates for the two commission seats, mostly Democrats.
Other local offices had few opposition candidates if any. And then there was Brad King (D), the present state representative in District 69 who being opposed by DeLamar Gibbons (R) of San Juan County.
But what shocked me was that in District 67, Peterson has literally no opposition at all. His only opponent is a Libertarian named Steve Thomas from Santaquin. No one from our area, Democrat or Republican or even Green Party is vying for the office.
Has the anger of last falls decision lessened? Not really when one talks to those that were concerned about it at the time.
It appears to me that the opposition parties threw in the towell on this one. The state democratic party apparently leaves these types of decisions to the local leaders, and the Greens, judging by the number of votes Ralph Nader got from this county in the last election, probably couldn't have fielded a candidate.
Maybe political types in our democracy should stop complaining about low voter turnout and instead look to why it is so anemic. Just possibly it isn't public apathy or disillusionment with our form of government that causes it, but instead the lack of viable candidates for offices of importance.