Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: Inside the minutiae of three races to be decided June 26

Published: Sunday, June 3 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Utah's 1st Congressional District has not sent a Democrat to Washington since 1978. Yet, Donna McAleer and Ryan Combe are vying for the Democratic nomination to challenge the popular incumbent Rep. Rob Bishop. Does this primary election matter?

These northern Utah Democrats may be the best candidates no one will ever hear about. Each has an attractive background and experience. McAleer is a West Point graduate who competed in the Olympics bobsled trials and can boast of business and nonprofit experience. She is a successful author and expert skier.

Combe's family hails from Weber County since pioneer days, and he is a successful entrepreneur who developed and eventually sold Spoon Me ice cream outlets. A sought-after business consultant, he is a director of the Weber State Alumni Association.

McAleer and Combe are battling for a dubious honor, given the reality that the winner faces the popular Bishop in a heavily Republican district, one of the safest seats in the country. While their fight may be "inside baseball" within a political minority, fair-minded observers hope these two candidates will find ways to stay engaged and provide Utahns the benefit of their skills in the future.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: lwebb@ exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: frankp@xmission.com.

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