OGDEN – In the crowded race for the seat in Utah’s 1st Congressional District, one candidate is proudly proclaiming she’ll support a progressive agenda if voters send her to Washington, D.C.
Democrat Jaime Cheek of Ogden says her campaign platform includes such hot-button issues as waiving college loan debt, funding Green New Deal climate initiatives, universal health care, free college tuition and federally-mandated living wages.
“Our great nation is built on the promise of progress, the principle of equality and the passion for justice,” Creek emphasized while announcing her campaign. “We now find ourselves at a fork in the road where each of us must decide which side of history we are going to be on when the dust settles on 2020.”
A native of Wyoming, Cheek moved to Utah about a decade ago. Her employment experience includes working as a college debate coach and as a licensed vocational rehabilitation counselor. She currently serves as district director for the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation in northern Utah.
With more than a dozen Republicans already vying for outgoing Rep. Rob Bishop’s seat in Congress, Cheek’s candidacy is generally viewed as a long-shot. Democrats make up only 10 percent of registered voters in the Utah’s 1st Congressional District and they are outnumbered 4-to-1 by their neighbors who are registered as GOP voters. No woman has ever represented that district in Congress and no Democrat has held its seat since Rep. K. Gunn McKay was voted out of office in 1980.
Despite the odds against her, Cheek has doubled down on her support for policies that are championed by the most left-leaning members of the U.S. Congress.
“There is no question that health care in our country isn’t working for all people,” she argues. “This problem is especially prevalent in Utah … About 72,000 children in Utah (7.4%) were uninsured in 2018, well above the national average (5.2%). Those numbers are even higher in the 1st District, with approximately 23,752 children (about 8.7%) without insurance coverage … When it comes to adults, the problem is just as bad. In the 1st District, 13.1% of adults are not covered by health insurance. That’s almost 80,000 people who live every day without the relative security of insurance. All in all, over 100,000 individuals (11.4%) in our district do not have health insurance. That number should be zero.”
On the subject of higher education expenses, Cheek says her positions are based on personal experience rather than statistics.
“Even with federal aid, scholarships and a job,” she recalls, “I still struggled to pay for rent, books and food while going to college … Student debt keeps graduates from buying homes, starting businesses and putting down economic roots in their communities. It also hinders our country’s economic growth. We must forgive student debt and move forward into an era where it isn’t necessary for Americans to take out tens of thousands of dollars in loans to get a degree.”
Cheek has also signaled her support for climate change initiatives now being hotly debated in Congress.
“It is long past time for us as a nation to take action to address the climate crisis,” she explains. “We need to create an economy that incentivizes renewable energy and sustainability while penalizing practices that harm our environment in favor of pure profits. As residents of a state with some of the worst air quality in the country, we must also do everything possible to promote practices and technology which will keep our air clean.”
The only other Democratic candidate in the running to replace Bishop in Congress is Darren Parry, the chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation.