Ask Magna resident Dub Richards to describe a typical day of his campaign for the Utah House of Representatives and he says "typical" doesn't apply. Not anymore.
Richards' office is a room on the fourth floor of LDS Hospital. His desk is his meal tray. He canvasses the voters of his district by phone.He's nearly immobilized, his head and shoulders clamped into the scaffolding of a spinal brace. His politicking has been interrupted by another series of X-rays or a rehabilitation session. Only recently, with his wheelchair privileges suspended until a circulation problem in his left leg clears up, has he had lots of uninterrupted time to continue his campaign.
"I'm on doctor's orders to stay in my room in my bed, so I have really been getting some work done on the telephone," said Richards, 33, the Republican challenger for the District 52 House seat held by Democrat Daniel Tuttle. "In fact, my campaign has moved ahead by leaps and bounds in the last few days."
Before Sept. 16, it was different.
Richards hadn't wanted to work in his booth at the Utah State Fair that Sunday, even though it was the fair's closing day. He decided he'd cruise on his motorcycle over to the fairgrounds to make sure the leaflets promoting his businesses were out and the exhibit ready, then return home and go to church with his family.
He never got to the fair because a car pulled out of a parking lot in front of him and he hit it broadside. When he woke up, he knew he was in a helicopter, but didn't know why. Then the pain bloomed, his memory replayed the accident and he realized he was in an air ambulance. As he retold the story Thursday, his hands floated near his chest, giving dimension to his memory of sickening awareness.
A witness later told him the collision catapulted him into the air. "I flew over the car. Flipped four times, and landed on my back," Richards said.
Trained in martial arts, he tried to break his fall but only managed to shred his hands on the pavement. He broke one vertebra between his shoulder blades and chipped two others. The original prognosis, he said, was hopeless. But surgery revealed that a bone chip had not lodged in his spinal cord. To Richards, that meant he could continue his campaign.
"I was pretty hammered for a while. But I never gave up," he said. "I admit I had a few days I was depressed. The campaign was way in the back of my mind the first three weeks after my accident. But it was still there."
He used to campaign like everyone else - walk the neighborhoods, hand out leaflets at shopping centers, chat up his would-be constituents - in short, the usual. Now, his legs don't work, and doctors have tried to tell him they never will. Richards said he told the doctors, "It's not in your power to take my hope and faith away." He has vowed to walk, even run, again.
As Election Day draws closer, he works his phone and fills out campaign questionnaires sent by various political groups. Recently he went to a candidates' forum at Little America. The hospital gave him a pass and provided a wheelchair and a chauffeured van so he could go.
Richards has a lot of ideas he would like to test as a legislator but said his basic campaign themes are simple: Liberty and justice for all, and a commitment to conventional morality and decency. Still, he wants change, especially in state and national energy policies, and said his write-in campaign for governor two years ago gave him a chance to spread his ideas. "There's such a movement to get change," he said.
"I'll be very happy if I get elected," Richards said. "But I'll be forever grateful, what a wonderful day it will be, when I'll be able to walk again. It is such a blessing to be able to stand on your own two feet."