Steve Beierlein has walked 20 parade routes in celebration of every local occasion from Brigham City's Peach Days to the Dixie Roundup in St. George.
He's been to gun shows, grocery stores, high school football games, a Merle Haggard concert in Ogden and a public hearing about a chicken ranch opening in Delta. At each location, he parks his 34-foot motor home, throws open the doors and meets the voters he hopes to represent in Utah's 1st Congressional District.He calls his traveling show the "Beierlein Express." And he's put so many miles on this election season's most notable campaign vehicle he had to replace the tires.
With its banners, American flags and John Phillip Sousa music streaming overhead, the motor home is a traveling billboard, instant parade float and portable office.
It is also the second home for Beierlein's wife, Sandy, who battles multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair.
This is the Steve Beierlein Express - this New York native's race for a national political seat now held by 18-year congressional veteran Jim Hansen.
"I've wanted this since I was 11 years old," says Beierlein, 40, a stock broker with Salomon Smith Barney.
And so he is undaunted.
Undaunted by incumbent Hansen's constituent support and by polls that show about 58 percent of Utahns approve of the job he's doing.
Undaunted by attacks from critics who wonder why Beierlein would run for political office when his wife, Sandy, is so sick.
Undaunted by the dwindling reserves in his own bank account and the tab that shows he has spent $160,000 of his own money.
Undaunted by the lack of support from the state's Democratic Party.
Beierlein hasn't received a dime from the party, he says, because he won't automatically pledge a position on traditional Democratic issues. But the candidate won't apologize for this, and believes it should be good news for Utahns.
"I've said it a thousand times: It doesn't matter whether an idea is a Democratic or Republican one - it's what's good for the people of Utah, and it's what's good for the country."
And if the Utah Democratic Party doesn't like that, "that's the breaks."
"My job is to represent the people of Utah's first district. It is not to represent a partisan point of view. No party is 100 percent right 100 percent of the time."
Beierlein, who was born in New York and moved to Utah at age 11, has a platform based on protecting education and families and fighting crime.
He started early in the campaign, introducing three "legislative proposals" as part of his platform.
First, he wants to co-sponsor Sen. Orrin Hatch's tobacco bill, which Beierlein says is not perfect legislation but comes closer than others. Second, he has called for a program to offer tax credits to senior citizens. The third, would extend some parts of the 1995 Omnibus Crime Bill.
The issues contrast his opponent, who has placed public land concerns and preserving northern Utah's Hill Air Force Base at the top of his list.
Beierlein wonders about Hansen's priorities. "Isn't it interesting that KSL and other polls show people are more interested in education and crime?" he said.
"It illustrates my point that he's out of touch."
Hansen is only interested in lands issues because he's on a congressional land committee, and he's interested in military because he was on the defense appropriation committee, Beierlein said.
"Mr. Hansen has forgotten about the people."
Beierlein knows the concerns of civilians and military folks in the defense industry.
"I lived there."
Beierlein moved to Utah when the Air Force transferred his father to Hill Air Force Base.
Just before this time, Beierlein got his first taste of politics. His dad was stationed in Turkey before moving to Utah, at a small Air Force base that was home to 200 families.
There was a political rally on the base prior to the 1968 election. "With the banners, the balloons, the bands . . . it captured my imagination."
Here, Beierlein's first foray into politics was as a councilman on the Riverdale City Council. Sandy was diagnosed with MS half way through his four-year term.
Sandy has become an ancillary - an unintended issue in the campaign.
"And Sandy doesn't want to be an issue," he said.
The family made the decision to enter the congressional race together. Beierlein has two daughters; 20-year-old Stephanie, a student at Weber State University and Stacie, 19, an LPN and a registered nursing student at Weber State.
Sandy no longer works; she retired four years ago from her position as operations manager of Golden West Credit Union.
She has a few speech difficulties now and has to rest a lot, which is why the motor home and Beierlein's way of traveling works so well. "This gives her something to think about besides her own challenges. We have actually spent more time together."