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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Lifelong Republican Karen E. Hyer, center, announces Thursday she will run for Utah's 3rd Congressional District as a Democrat. Hyer made her announcement in front of the Provo City Library at Academy Square.

PROVO — Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, picked up two challengers Thursday as an educator from Provo and a longtime critic of the freshman legislator filed for Utah's 3rd Congressional District.

Karen E. Hyer, who has taught at Oregon Health Sciences University and BYU, where she works as an adjunct professor, said voters need to "take back our country from self-serving politicians and corrupt special interest groups" as she announced her candidacy on the Democratic ticket.

Joe Puente, who manages the jasonwatch.org Web site and claims he has been banished from the Congressman's Facebook page for using the social networking site to ask critical questions, filed to run as an independent.

Hyer, a 68-year-old great-grandmother of 32 and lifelong Republican, said she decided to run as a Democrat when local party leaders approached her after hearing her give a speech for a friend who was running as a Democrat.

"They said I didn't have to change anything," she said. "My independent views and the strength of my convictions were what brought them there that day."

Hyer was surrounded by supporters and family members Thursday afternoon as she announced her candidacy on the lawn of the Provo City Library at Academy Square. She was short on specifics, noting that she had only decided to run a few weeks ago, but she was clear-cut about her political philosophy.

"Our government is paralyzed and can't even solve basic problems," Hyer said. "We need to move beyond empty words."

Four issues she said need to be addressed are the national debt and deficit problem; ending dependence on foreign oil; encouraging economic growth; and encouraging industry and job creation.

Hyer said she represents a change of pace from politics as usual.

"I am not a professional politician, and I'm not interested in making a career of this," she said. "I will go out and do my best to do what the voters think should be done."

Hyer has taught ethics, business and constitutional law over a long academic career. She has been involved in numerous overseas teaching assignments, including teaching business and U.S. constitutional law in China. More information on the candidate can be found at www.hyerforcongress.com.

Puente, who recently moved from Sanpete County to Salt Lake City, is a part-time filmmaker and actor who said the fact that he receives disability payments for narcissistic personality disorder shouldn't prevent him from holding elected office. He even devotes a section of his Web site, www.joepuente.org, to "dirty laundry."

"I've been on disability. People can make of it what they will," he said.

Puente said he believes America's two-party system is broken.

"My No. 1 priority is bringing about fair elections and removing the financial element in elections," he said. "Until that happens, nothing that gets passed in Washington is going to matter to regular people. … As an independent, I'm beholden to no one but the people who elect me. I can vote my conscience."

Puente said he considers himself a centrist who "leans more toward libertarianism."