Representative Matheson and the Democratic Party

When I ran for Senate in 2006, Representative Jim Matheson was kind enough to meet with me more than once to offer help and advice. I met with him in both his Salt Lake City office and his Washington D.C. office. In one of those meetings he reflected upon the anger that some of Democratic party have for his conservative votes. He stated to me that he often votes this way to satisfy his conservative base, but when it comes to voting for helping the poor, he has always been there. I don’t know how how his vote against the House healthcare bill fits into that definition, but I won’t try to explain it for him either. Personally I think the healthcare bill is a bloated mess. Instead of 2000+ pages, it really only needs to be two words, “Single Payer”. I blame the Democrats for this failure due to the three “I”s – ignorance, incompetence, and influence. That is another journal entry altogether.

Nevertheless, Representative Matheson had the chance to help write the ACES bill in favor of Western renewable energies, but chose not to do so. His vote against the healthcare bill only exacerbated Democrats who have long hated his middle-of-the-road positions. As a result, a number of people, driven by Tim DeChristopher, have been pushing for me to run against Jim Matheson. Here is why I won’t.

  1. A Democrat who is more to the left than Jim Matheson could probably easily win a primary, maybe even settle this in convention, but in the end would lose the general election. I can think of no other county that exemplifies this more than Carbon County. This was traditionally a Democratic stronghold in Utah, but has gone Republican over the past decade. In 2006, Jim Matheson received 3,658 votes in Carbon County. In spite of canvassing Carbon County extensively and knocking on a few thousand doors, I received 2,255 votes. Conversely, Orrin Hatch rarely visits and received 2,408. I don’t see how deposing Jim Matheson would endear me to 1400+ people who otherwise voted for Senator Hatch.
  2. I don’t live in the 2nd Congressional District. There is is nothing legally preventing me from running to represent a district I don’t live in. Thanks to the Utah Legislature, I can cross all three of Utah’s congressional districts on my morning run, because I live in Salt Lake City. Representative Jason Chaffetz was able to oust Chris Cannon on the Republican side without living in the 3rd district. However for a Democrat, this would be fuel on the fire for the GOP challenger living in the district.
  3. In spite of Matheson’s votes, he is still warming a seat on the Democratic side of the aisle. 2010 is going to be Republicans trying to capitalize against President Obama’s agenda. Although I haven’t ruled out running in 2010, I don’t want to be contributing to the inevitable losses the Democratic party is going to face. If I was running instead of Matheson, the national GOP would pour resources into the race not because they care about Utah, but because they want their majority back.
  4. In 2006, the Deseret News ran a poll on favorability ratings of Utah politicians. Matheson came out #1, higher than then Governor Jon Huntsman. Having him in office is a good thing for other Utah Democrats trying to get elected.
  5. The Matheson family remains committed to Democratic causes and candidates here in Utah. I want to receive their help rather than their scorn when I run again.

One individual who asked me to run wanted my opinion as to whether it is a waste of time to try and oust Matheson. Being concerned and active with your government is never a waste of time. However, I think there are bigger fish to fry for Utah Democrats than one who still claims he is in our party.

5 thoughts on “Representative Matheson and the Democratic Party

  1. Pete,

    As a supporter of the way you have built your your business (I’m a long-time Xmission subscriber), the fact that you engage in community, artistic and philanthropic endeavors, and your proverbial tilt-against-the-Hatch-windmill senatorial bid, I can think of few local individuals that I’d rather have sitting in Jim Matheson’s seat than you. Nonetheless, your reasons for NOT running are both pragmatic and wise. And while I am greatly frustrated with the level of so-called pragmatism on the Democratic side — from the President to our local representative — I understand it. Jim’s vote against the (admittedly bloated) health care bill was a last straw of sorts for me. Does this mean I will vote for a Republican in 2010? Hardly: they have done nothing but merit derision. But, more critical than voting for the other (or, ANY other) party, is the possibility that the generation of progressive voters who campaigned and strove for CHANGE, will turn inward, opt out of any political dialog, and again become convinced that the System is rigged, that there is no point in trying. We have seen this before: it was called the Reagan 80’s.

  2. Pete, your points are all correct. But it’s a sad state of affairs. Maybe we ought to stop teaching our students that the USA is a democracy.

  3. The House of Representatives is supposed to represent the will of people as things arise in the country. When the Constitution was written they never expected the House to be the minor league House of Lords who campaign for 2 years strait and hold onto their seats tooth and nail. Rep.’s should be actual representatives of the people and our concerns in real time. Matheson just isn’t that guy. You’re right, he’s popular thanks to a great family name, he’s a fund raising animal, and he isn’t giving that seat up unless the Republican party holds up a neon sign telling him that Bennett’s seat is available for him.

    None of that changes some facts about him though that can’t be glossed over. 2006 isn’t 2009, and people are paying attention to all our Congressional leaders and putting them under the microscope. The public was not engaged 3 years ago like they are right now. It’s kind of hard to ignore how he keeps holding his constituents at arms length and utterly REFUSES to acknowledge our presence.

    His money trail is a sham too. Given the amounts he has taken in from the health insurance industry and then a Nay vote on the HC bill wasn’t a big shocker. That was despite the CBO report that should have told his “fiscal conservative” rear to not only support the health care bill but support an even stronger P.O. version of it, and he didn’t. He also had the gall the hire Amy Andryszak as his Chief of Staff. He sits on the Sci and Tech committee and hired a telecom lobbyist to be his Chief of Staff… Of all the people in the world she just happened to be the best person for the job. Somehow I doubt it.

    Despite his voting record and abysmal ethics, it appears he pisses off the Republicans. Until another rock star shows up, I guess that will have to do.

    Instead of having civil war for UT CD02, if Weber, Salt Lake, and Davis can pull it together someone could lock up Bishop’s seat especially in an off-presidential election. If there was more organizational structure as you get away from Salt Lake, it can be done, I really believe that. We just need someone who can really pull it all together to get it. We need a reason to build that structure. I personally don’t think you should give Matheson a second thought other than to learn from his mistakes. Unseat Bishop, go to Congress, and show Matheson how a Democrat is supposed to act, how a leader is supposed to act. You lead from the front, with dignity, with integrity, and with a sense of purpose driven by something other than saving your own skin.

  4. Pete,

    Wise, and well said… We Democrats are fortunate to have such diplomats as yourself among us.

    After the next census, if the Republicans decide to create one safe Democratic seat to assure three safe Republican seats, we will need such a diplomat to explain to my congressman that if he wants to stay in Congress, he’ll be trying to take one of the Republican seats, because there’s no way in hell he gets the safe Democratic one…

  5. Dear Pete:
    Thanks so much for your reply…I am so sorry that we cannot mount a defense against Jim Matheson….but, the State Legislature has made it impossible for Democrats to survive here. I will not, however, ever vote for him again. I will vote for whoever runs against him…including a Republican. I would rather vote for an evil I know. We keep hoping that Matheson is a Democrat, but he is not…as long as he holds that seat, he keeps a genuine Democrat OUT…
    Let the scumball run as a Republican.

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