Ross Anderson has lived a life many raised in the 1960s may have thought they'd live, but didn't - fighting for unpopular causes against the Establishment.
Raised in Ogden and conservative Cache County, Anderson came to the University of Utah in the early 1970s with brains, drive and ideals. He became a philosophy major but switched to law after deciding he didn't want to think about making things better. He wanted to make things better.For 20 years he's worked on that, taking up progressive causes some may call liberal, but which Anderson believes are right-headed and compassionate. He's sat on community boards, defended unpopular causes and clients, even traveled to Nicaragua in the 1980s for two "fact-finding" trips aimed at finding out forhimself what American foreign policy was up to.
He's sued state agencies, including the prison, West High School and University of Utah, and hammered the Salt Lake Police Department over three unsolved murders of young women.
True believers and idealists in the Democratic Party see Anderson's 2nd District candidacy this year as a breath of fresh air. Party pragmatists cringe and plot his defeat.
This Saturday in the state Democratic Convention, Anderson, 44, will try to convince about 800 2nd District delegates that he deserves a shot at a primary election, maybe even the nomination itself. If he gets 41 percent of the delegates, he's in the primary. A 60 percent tally gives him the nomination outright. He faces state Rep. Kelly Atkinson, D-West Jordan, in the convention.
Pick a traditional Democratic cause and Anderson is there. Not there a month ago or a year ago. But always there, he says.
He wants 5.7 million acres of wilderness in Utah.
"I've supported it from the first. My law firm was out front on the citizens' wilderness proposal."
He wants light rail in Salt Lake County.
"Everyone, especially Republicans, say return decisionmaking to local governments. Well, the Wasatch Front Regional Council has been in favor of light rail for years. Most county and city officials (in the county) support it, as does Gov. Leavitt and Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett. I'm with them on this one, as long as it is done without a tax increase."
He's pro-choice, although he doesn't like the label.
"I've always felt the decision of having an abortion in early term must be left up to those most intimately involved. It should be outside government control. But I've worked for years, my emphasis has been, that we need to educate and promote family planning. Stop unwanted pregnancies, then we don't face" the decision of abortion. Anderson is a former board member of and has provided legal aid to Planned Parenthood of Utah.
He opposes the death penalty. "My moral point of view is that society cannot set the criteria for taking a life."
He's opposed to "irresponsible tax cuts" at the very time Congress strives to balance the federal budget.
"The middle class is much more harmed by the debt than helped by a tax cut." The debt leads to lower wages, higher interest rates and less job opportunity.
He's opposed to a tax increase on the middle class and the poor, but not one on wealthier Americans. He favors capping the mortgage interest deduction at $20,000 a year. Depending on interest rates, such a cap would affect deductions on homes costing around $300,000 and higher. He also would deny the deduction on second and third homes, so-called vacation homes. "Why should the government give a subsidy to the very wealthiest - those who can afford a $300,000 home or two or three homes? Capping the mortgage deduction this way would (bring in to the government) $11 billion by 2002."
For tax fairness and public health reasons, he's also "inclined to raise federal taxes on alcohol and tobacco."
He favors civil rights for all people, all the time. "I wouldn't amend or change the Equal Access Law," the federal law cited by some attorneys as the reason gay and lesbian student clubs must be allowed in Utah high schools.
"I'm very much opposed to SB246," the original bill passed by the Utah Legislature that would give school districts a legal right to ban gay and lesbian student clubs. "We should not discriminate based on race, gender or sexual ori-en-ta-tion."
He's a former board member of the Utah Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and volunteered to help defend Rachael Bauchmann in her federal suit against the West High School choir's singing of "religious" songs.
He wouldn't block grant federal monies to states for education or welfare spending but would send the money back to the state via the present federal programs. "States are proving now that they have good ideas on (education and welfare reform) and there's flexibility (in federal programs) to meet those good ideas. Block grants will just lead to cutting back dramatically (aid) to those severely in need."
Anderson says he does differ from what some would call the traditional Democratic ideals in his fiscal policies. He favors a bal-anced-budget amendment to the Constitution. And he wants to trim Medicare and Social Security payments to wealthy Americans "who don't need the help."
Anderson would eliminate Social Security payments to those making more than $100,000 a year. That saves $15 billion. He'd consider eliminating, or curtailing benefits of those making over $50,000 a year. That would save $60 billion. He also wants to reduce or eliminate Medicare payments to wealthier Americans who could, or do, have private health insurance.
"Social Security has become a pay-as-you-go Ponzi scheme." Older Americans are getting more out of it than they ever paid in, those 40 and under will pay into it much more than they will ever get out. It's unfair and needs extensive changes, Anderson says.
"Just because you turn a certain age doesn't mean you need" Social Security. Federal payments should be based on need, not age, he says.