Tom Smart, Deseret News
SANDY — Seventy-nine-year-old Barbara Baker, who is using her personal money as B. Alice Baker in radio ads to promote Morgan Philpot for Congress, says she's doing it because "it's my duty."
In the only personal interview with a reporter since a radio ad began running in Utah this week, the president of Challenger Schools said she never wanted her to draw attention to herself. Her only concern is that America's freedom is at risk, she said.
Baker's minutelong commercial is airing on a number of radio stations, including KSL Newsradio and two sister FM radio stations.
"The time has come for random acts of personal patriotism. America is worth it," she says in the commercial after warning listeners that "our freedom is under attack once again," just as it was in the Revolutionary War. She says incumbent Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, is among those who work "against America."
"Both parties have been at fault with ignoring how to maintain freedom, and getting bigger and taxing more and spending more." Baker said in Thursday's interview.
When it comes to candidates, "we need to look at their principles, at what they've done in the past, at what they've pledged they'd do. And I can tell with (Philpot) that he will pledge his honor and sacred honor to do what's right."
At Challenger School's Sandy headquarters, patriotic pictures and portraits of the Founding Fathers are featured prominently in almost every office. Baker has set the tone, and she says Challenger parents know where she stands.
"I don't expect backlash," she said.
Baker's concern about freedom started when she was a little girl at the end of World War II, then during the Cold War. She feels the same looming threat today.
As far as galvanizing voters, she recalled volunteering with Barry Goldwater in 1964.
"One big fella said to me, as I showed him President (Lyndon) Johnson's menacing track record, 'So, I'm eating, ain't I?' " Baker recalled. "And that resonated with me, because when we find people being apathetic about our government and freedom, it will go away."
"You have to educate yourself to politics because they are the things that determine how we live our lives," Baker said. "That's what motivates me."
Baker's ad closes by saying Philpot "didn't know about this ad and he didn't pay for it. I did. My name is Alice and I'm 79 years old." An announcer clarifies it was paid for by "B. Alice Baker" and not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.
Matheson was curious why Baker chose to refer to herself as 'Alice' in the ad, her middle name, rather than 'Barbara' as she's well known.
"By using Alice, I could just be a citizen, and that's all I wanted to be," Baker said. "I never wanted it to be about me."
But spending more than $50,000, the amount she says she's spent on top-dollar radio ads this week, to broadcast your message is unusual.
And it's legal, as long as it is not coordinated with a campaign, according to Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.
"Usually individuals don't want to stick their neck out," Jowers said. "Individuals paying for ads like these are quite rare in Utah."
For the candidates, Philpot this week says he is "honored and touched" by Baker's appeal to voters.
Matheson says he isn't worried, and that he's found that in an election season, voters "prefer to hear from the candidates themselves," Matheson said.
For Baker, the money she's spent is worth it.
"I felt it was my duty," Baker said.
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