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Stuart Reid: a view from both sides of the aisle

Published: Sunday, April 6 2014 1:36 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — To say state Sen. Stuart Reid understands both sides of the aisle is a massive understatement.

Not only does he understand them, he’s walked them.

First as a Democrat, he spent decades as a member of the Democratic Party, sitting on the party’s state executive committee as well as serving as a Democrat on the Salt Lake City Council.

Second as a Republican, the party he switched to four years ago before being elected to the state Senate in District 18, representing parts of Weber, Davis and Morgan counties.

When he was elected to the Senate, the 57-year-old Reid, who has also been a U.S. Army chaplain; a lobbyist for the LDS Church; and, on separate occasions, economic development director to Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini (a Democrat) and Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey (a Republican), vowed he would serve just one four-year term. That term ends in early January 2015.

After the recent adjournment of the 2014 legislative session, the Deseret News sat down with the trans-party senator from Ogden to get his views on a variety of subjects.

DN: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. So you meant it when you said you would serve just one term?

SR: That’s right. I’ll be done in January.

DN: Any particular reason why?

SR: I’ve been around government doing public service now, including military service, elected and appointed positions, for nearly 30 years. I feel like I’ve done my part and it’s time to let other people have opportunities. I’m looking forward to seek more opportunity for harmony in my life rather than the constant battling. Politics is certainly not for the faint of heart, and you have to have a thick skin because eventually you alienate just about everybody if you take positions of any kind that are controversial. But that’s not why I’m leaving. I’ve been at it a long time, and I think most people in elected office should come and go.

DN: You were a Democrat before you were a Republican, but you’ve said your political views have never changed. Please elaborate.

SR: I was a Democratic up until four years ago. I’d run for the Senate as a Democrat and lost by 400 votes. Then I switched and ran as a Republican in the same district and got 60 percent of the vote. I won by thousands of votes. My politics didn’t change at all. Whether as a Democrat or Republican I’ve always been conservative on fiscal issues and moderate on moral social issues.

DN: Your story suggests it isn’t easy wearing the Democrat label in Utah. Why do you think that’s the case?

SR: I think the problem for Utah Democrats has been and continues to be the national platform. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party were fairly equally yoked in Utah back in the '40s, '50s and '60s, and then the decline of the Democratic Party took place with Roe v. Wade and the sexual revolution of the '60s. People in the state who would normally be Democrats have turned to the Republican Party because it more closely represents their values and the culture that has been established here, primarily by the LDS Church. I think it’s a unique thing about Utah. It’s interesting because you’ll have Republicans who care about minority issues, they care about the poor, but because of the moral social issues that the Democratic Party has supported they just can’t be Democrats. As a Utah Democrat, I spent most of my time, 29-some years, trying to reform the party when it came to these moral social issues, but it just wouldn’t budge. The smaller the party’s become, the more the extreme elements are controlling the party so it’s very hopeless now, particularly with the passage of SB54, the Count My Vote issue.

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