Utah Politics: These Women Are Part Of A Democratic Candidate Wave In The Conservative State

Veterans and newcomers alike are making the charge together.

The Utah legislature, which meets at the Utah state capitol, is seeing many more Democratic candidates this election cycle than last.
Rick Bowmer / AP Images

Veterans and newcomers alike are making the charge together.

There are 99 Democratic candidates this cycle, compared to just 71 in the last one, according to the Utah Lieutenant Governor’s Office.

A newcomer is Karina Andelin Brown. Besides having been a Medicaid expansion advocate since 2015, she is concerned with the suicide rate of youth in Utah.

“Because of my advocacy work and the work I am doing with health care, it helped expand my mind and my thinking,” Brown said. “I’ve felt for me that I need to step outside of my family and my church community and my neighborhood community to serve more people.”

Cheryl Nunn is a bit of a political veteran, but that in no way keeps her from being disgusted with President Donald Trump, who “continue[s] to erode our moral values and damage our country, environmental and consumer [protection] regulations,” she said.

Brown and Nunn spoke further with the Inquisitr about many other reasons for running as part of the Democratic candidate wave in a state that has been deep red following the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision on abortion.

“I’m really excited because it seems like the political landscape in Utah is changing,” Brown said.

Karina Andelin Brown

Brown wants more moms like her in the legislature, thinking that their skills should be applied in that branch of government.

While she doesn’t want to judge her fellow members of the Mormon church, Brown said she now realizes that skills learned within church walls could be impactful far beyond them.

“It’s been kind of an inspiration for me,” Brown said.

For the past few months, Brown has gathered signatures for a Utah ballot initiative to expand Medicaid. Over that time frame and all of last year, Brown had been encouraged to run for office.

“People need me,” she said.

After Brown contacted the Utah state legislators – all of them – in Oct. 2015 over a Medicaid-expansion plan, she found herself at the state capitol in Jan. 2016. She felt overwhelmed then, feeling like she was one of the only people in a room who did not belong there.

But now, she realizes that citizens should feel like they belong, besides being empowered with knowledge of on-the-hill advocacy.

“Utah has a high rate of apathy and [I’m] just thinking, ‘they are going to decide everything for us and we’re going to have to go along with that.’ And I can have a say … I don’t have to accept whatever’s handed to us,” Brown remarked. “It’s time for people [to decide] … rather than have corporations and lobbyists telling us what [will] happen.”

Healthcare has been a top thing for Brown since her mother could have been saved by Medicare; she died of an acute stroke in 2013 when she was a few months short of qualifying for the benefits of the program. She was a single mother with seven kids who, for the majority of her life, did not get regular medical screenings and checkups. All she would do is talk with friends and family in the medical field when she needed it. The cost was a concern for her, and Brown regrets taking a Republican approach, as Brown said, in asking her mother to tough it out and build a business at her old age.

“If Utah says ‘we’re so great for business’ … but then we have these terrible social statistics, to me, it’s not worth it,” Brown said. “What guides me is Alfred Marshall: The most valuable of all capital is that invested in human beings.”

It’s a mighty change for Brown. Though she’s maintained party affiliation for going on two years now, she became a Democrat just a “couple of weeks” after she went to the capitol as a Republican, with which she had always identified.

“The only advice [Brown’s mom] ever gave to me was to never marry a Democrat,” Brown said. “They have that brainwashing thing.”

Karina Andelin Brown is new to the Utah legislative candidate scene after advocating for Medicaid expansion for more than two years. She said that could have saved her mother's life.
  Alina Brown / Karina Andelin Brown

There’s also Brown’s application to the legislature and philosophy.

“Republican leadership in our state hasn’t led to social outcomes,” she said. “You know what the Bible teaches about doing unto others as you would do unto you … as a state, we can do better. We need to be more compassionate and the Democratic Party, in general, is more compassionate.”

Brown said that she would fight for constituents as she started mixing it up in the ring as a kickboxer, another embrace of hers of something unfamiliar.

Brown thanked state Rep. Ray Ward this past legislative session as he called her when she emailed all of the state legislators.

“I really appreciate you,” she said she told him.

Cheryl Nunn

Several years before the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, a battle was waged in California over gay rights in the form of Proposition 8, where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints heavily influenced the vote. After that, the Foundation for Reconciliation was founded. It was meant to provide a bridge between the church, LGBTQ community, and Utah state government.

Its founder was Cheryl Nunn. She’s also been a financial analyst. She does favor financial responsibility, she said. But also speaking as a woman, mother, and grandmother, Nunn spoke against Trump.

“I’ve seen how his executive orders and tax and health policies and legislation benefit the most wealthy at the expense of damaging the long-term quality of life and standard of living for middle and low-income citizens of my Utah district,” Nunn said.

Nunn is also disgusted by “token bills” that merely “sound” like they will solve problems, but don’t get to root issues, she remarked.

Keeping open ears has also been a high priority for her, she said.

“I am listening to our youth, with my own children and grandchildren involved, participating in movements pleading for their safety that have been held in my own district,” she said. “I am listening to our seniors and women that participated in other marches this year that want basic human rights to affordable health care, and other constitutional protections for all our citizens.”

Nunn also said that many multiple-term Utah lawmakers have become “professional politicians.”

“They say they are for term limits and campaign finance change, but they fail to write and pass any bills to accomplish them,” Nunn said. “They don’t address any of the other issues effectively to address the problems we face now that will continue to increase exponentially with the high projected population growth to double in our future.”

Cheryl Nunn is among the 39 percent more Democratic candidates this cycle than last running for the Utah legislature.
  Cheyenne Nunn / Cheryl Nunn

Nunn pointed to inaction on air quality issues in the northern Utah region, which she said is the worst in the United States on “certain days” of the year.

“Why should we continue to elect these legislators [who] are lobbied so successfully by the top Salt Lake valley companies causing the greatest air pollution to have free reign to pollute 24/7 even on our worst orange and red days?” Nunn asked, saying the question is one that she has asked herself for “years.”

Nunn also said that action cannot be delayed any longer to protect scenic Utah, quality of life in the state, funding education, and providing for a positive economic outlook.

Candidates Derek Kitchen, Nadia Mahallati, Deana Froerer, Jacquelyn Orton, and Kathleen Riebe did not return requests for comment. Other candidates in Darin Mann, Nikki Cunard, and Suzanne Harrison could not be reached for comment. Including them, all the other Democratic candidates for the Utah state legislature, according to the Utah lieutenant governor’s office, are below.

Utah Senate

District 2: Jessica Foard, Tim Chambless, David Andreason, Nadia Mahallati, Shawn Robinson, Derek Kitchen, Jennifer Plumb; 3: Gene Davis; 4: Jani Iwamoto; 5: Karen Mayne; 8: Kathie Allen, Kathleen Riebe; 9: Abbey Wright, Monica Zoltanski; 11: Christian Burridge; 12: Clare Collard; 17: Michael Keil; 18: Jason Yu; 21: Jake Penrod; 26: Pat Vaughn, Eileen Gallagher; 28: Mark Chambers

Utah House

District 1: Joshua Hardy; 2: Tyler Allred; 3: Marilyn Mecham; 4: Josh Brundage; 5: Karina Andelin Brown; 7: David Owen; 8: Deana Froerer; 9: Kathie Darby; 10: Lawanna Shurtliff; 11: Jason Allen; 12: Rick Jones; 13: Tab Lyn Uno; 14: Shanell Day; 15: Rich Miller; 16: Cheryl Nunn; 17: Dawn Nunn; 18: Adam Alba; 19: Courtney Jones; 20: Ryan Jones; 21: Debbie Vigil; 22: Susan Duckworth; 23: Sandra Hollins; 24: Jacquelin Orton, Igor Limansky, Darin Mann, Shawn Robinson, Richard Goldberger, Ryan Parker, Jen Dailey-Provost; 25: Joel Briscoe, 26: Angela Romero; 27: Elisabeth Luntz; 28: Brian King; 29: Kerry Wayne; 30: Derrick Fullum, Robert Burgh, Chelsey Rose; 31: Elizabeth Weight; 32: Suzanne Harrison; 33: Kay Van Patter, Ira Hatch; 34: Karen Kwan; 35: Mark Wheatley; 36: Patrice Arent; 37: Carol Spackman Moss; 38: Edgar Harwood; 39: Stephen Peck; 40: Lynn Hemingway, Stephanie Pitcher; 41: Wendy Garvin; 42: Nicholas Holland; 43: Diane Lewis, Frank Torina; 44: Andrew Stoddard; 45: Nikki Cunard; 46: Megan Skiles, Marie Poulson; 47: Scott Bell; 49: Anthony Sudweeks; 50: Megan Wiesen; 51: Alan Summerhays; 52: Dan McClellan; 53: Christopher Neville; 54: Roberto Lopez, Meaghan Miller; 55: Christina Higgins; 58: Lynn Zaritsky; 60: Alan Keele; 64: Daniel Friend; 65: Sue Womack; 66: Paul Dayton; 68: Merle Wall; 69: Tim Glenn, Danielle Pendergrass; 70: Robert Greenberg; 71: Chuck Goode; 72: Geno Parry