Lifetime politicking has unquestionably become the way to do it for many members of Congress, and one man says it is a huge problem for Utah and the nation.
<a href=”http://combeforcongress.com/”>Democratic congressional candidate Ryan Combe</a> says, “I think a huge problem in politics is that you have life-time politicians – people who’ve been involved in the game for so long that they’ve sold their votes to so many people. We allow politicians to stay in there year after year after year, and they hold us hostage by their own elections.”
On June 26, residents in Utah’s 1st Congressional District will vote at the Democratic and Republican primary elections. The district reaches from Park City to Cache Valley. For more information about the district or to find a polling location, go to vote.utah.gov.
Combe, if elected over his <a href=”http://dmcaleer.com/”>Democratic opponent Donna McAleer</a>, will try to unseat the Republican incumbent Rob Bishop – representative of the 1st Congressional District since 2003.
The Weber County native said the ‘hostage’ situation occurs because incumbents run on the threat of what will happen if they’re not re-elected rather than what the benefit would be if they are re-elected.
“I would be in full support of an amendment installing term limits,” Combe says. “I’m running because I want to find ideas that will help my community move forward. I don’t want to be bought out or pigeon-holed into one side or the other. I just want to make things better.”
The 22nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, passed in 1947, states that an individual cannot be elected to the presidency more than two times in a row. But no such policy is in place for members of Congress, who can serve as many terms as they are elected.
Combe says he doesn’t understand why more young people don’t run as often for office.
“Things that take place in Washington affect me more than most of the people voting for it because I’m younger – I’m living with the results of that vote for a longer time,” Combe says. “But I hope people realize that if I’m elected, when I vote on policy, I will have more time invested in every decision.”
While Combe matches the demographics of a Republican, and even grew up thinking he was Republican, he is running a as a Democrat.
“I was a sixth-generation Republican. You think that’s your only choice when you live in this state, but as I continued to educate myself on the important issues, I found myself aligning more and more with the Democratic party values,” he explains.
The turning point for Combe came when he went on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to South America. While there, he saw what it was like to live in a country with no middle class and where politics were dominated by the extremely wealthy.
“It opened my eyes to the good of the social programs we have that enables us to be stable, to have opportunity to rise up and make a better life,” Combe says. “And my biggest concern is higher education. As a country we need to be looking at every available resource to help our kids be better educated.”
Reforming higher education is a large part of Combe’s platform. He hopes to keep federal Pell Grants for college students from decreasing and student loan rates from increasing.
“People ask me, ‘How do we know you’re concerned with education?'” Combe says. “Well, my oldest son is in kindergarten, so I’m going to be dealing with education for the next 20-plus years of my life with my children.”
Combe thinks the expense of college is making education inaccessible to people who actually want to be educated. He said the affect is long-term, and it doesn’t just impede people from going to school.
“Having uneducated people keeps us from growing economically,” Combe says. “Who’s going to want to open a business in this state if they can’t have people with college degrees to work there?”
Educational attainment in Utah has been a recent topic of interest. Utah Governor Gary Herbert enacted the <a href=”http://www.utah.gov/governor/priorities/education.html”>Governor’s Education Excellence Commission and Prosperity 2020 initiative</a> with the goal of reaching 66 percent of adult Utahns who will have a post-secondary degree or professional certification by 2020.
According to 2009 U.S. Census data, about 28.5 percent of Utahns have earned a bachelor’s degree, which is slightly above national average. This ranked Utah 32nd nationwide in educational attainment (adults 25 and older holding a bachelor’s degree or higher), which was a drop from 2008 when Utah ranked at 17th.
“We need to nourish and invest our money in higher education,” Combe continues. “I use the word invest because I think that is something a lot of people in this country have lost track of – we are investing in the future. We’re not just throwing money at a problem, we receive a return on that investment, greater than the initial dollar amount.”
Though Combe doesn’t have political experience or an Ivy League education, he did graduate from the University of Utah and founded Zenyo LLC, the parent company of Spoon Me, a frozen yogurt franchise. When he started the company, Combe said it was “a crash course in things that will help or hurt you.”
“We need people who understand what it takes to function in an economy, who know the pluses and minuses of government regulations, and entrepreneurs are those people,” Combe says.
And his political inexperience, he claims, is part of his appeal – that he’s just like everybody else, dealing with issues that voters deal with everyday.
“I have 28 years left on my house mortgage. I’m still paying student loans. I have things at stake. I’m not sitting on a golden ticket with a pension plan that’s been maxed out and have millions of dollars sitting in the bank. I think that anyone looking for positive change can recognize the things I’m trying to do,” Combe says.
And what of being a Democrat concerned with decreased spending on social programs in a Red State?
Combe explains, “I think right now people are becoming less concerned with ‘are you a Republican or a Democrat,’ and they’re going back to who can do the best job for us, and that’s what I want to do.”