A look at the state's 'other' congressional races

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 24 2012 6:00 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The biggest issue in the 2nd District congressional race may be the confusion created among voters by the new boundaries drawn during last year's redistricting process.

Both Republican Chris Stewart and Democrat Jay Seegmiller said they've spent significant time on the campaign trail talking about the decision by state lawmakers to flip much of the district from the east to the west side of the state.

A further complication is the decision by current 2nd District Rep. Jim Matheson, Utah's only Democrat in Congress, to run in the state's new 4th District that encompasses portions of Salt Lake and Utah counties.

"That's been a real challenge for us," Seegmiller said, because voters not only aren't sure anymore which congressional district they're in, some also believe Matheson is seeking reelection in the 2nd District. "It's frustrating."

Stewart said one of the first links he put on his website was to a map of the state's new congressional districts so voters could see if they still lived in the 2nd District, which now sprawls from northern Utah to much of the southern portion of the state.

"That's always been a little bit of a concern for us," Stewart said. "People don't pay that much attention."

Especially with so much focus on Matheson's race against Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, who would be the first black GOP woman in Congress. That race is dominating the airwaves and attracting national interest.

For Stewart and Seegmiller, running for Congress means traveling throughout the district to some of the farthest reaches of the state to meet with voters and pitch their plans.

Both candidates are emphasizing the economy, as well as their political differences.

Seegmiller, an Amtrak railroad conductor, is using the slogan "Jay for Jobs" on his campaign materials and proposing incentives to companies that bring jobs and investment back to the United States. 

Stewart, an author and consultant who served as an Air Force pilot, said he believes the best way to revitalize the economy is to get government out of the way of the private business owners who create jobs. 

Seegmiller describes himself as a moderate Democrat who worked across the aisle during his single term as a state representative, won by defeating then-House Speaker Greg Curtis. 

"Utah is pretty moderate," he said. "We're trying to get our message out there, which is job creation, job creation, job creation." 

Stewart, whose books on American exceptionalism have been promoted by right-wing media personality Glenn Beck, labels himself a traditional conservative rather than someone who wants to "plant a bunch of flags" on behalf of extremist causes.

He said he wouldn't have won the GOP nomination at the party's state convention earlier this year had delegates seen him as too close politically to Beck.

"We're not blood brothers in our political views," Stewart said.

The Republican's convention win was controversial, however, prompting an internal party investigation, as well as a Federal Elections Commission complaint filed by several of his GOP opponents.

Stewart said he's taking nothing for granted.

"This is an open race. We have two candidates who are unknown," he said. "That opens the door to voters."

1st District 

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is facing a spirited challenge from Democrat Donna McAleer in his bid for a sixth term.

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