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."
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is facing a spirited challenge from Democrat Donna McAleer in his bid for a sixth term.
McAleer has outraised Bishop since July, bringing in more than $120,000 in campaign contributions through the end of September with about $78,000 cash on hand. During the same quarter, Bishop collected nearly $67,000 and had some $60,000 available.
The first-time candidate easily defeated a primary opponent, Ryan Combe, despite his strong family ties to the northern Utah district, and has continued to emphasize her varied life experience, including the unsuccessful bid to become an Olympic bobsledder that brought her to Utah.
Currently an author and a ski instructor, McAleer graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. She said her service in the Army and in both the private and public sectors have taught her "public service is about country, not politics."
Bishop, a former Utah House speaker and high school history teacher, said his positions on the Armed Services and Public Lands committees in Congress, as well as his work promoting states rights through the 10th Amendment Taskforce, help the state.
He said he is proud of his votes to cuts taxes and eliminate wasteful spending.
"Experience and the right principles do make a difference, and that is why I'm running for re-election," the congressman said.
The pair have differing views on what needs to be done to deal with the nation's economic woes. Bishop said one of the best long-term moves is adopting a comprehensive energy policy, while McAleer called into question growth in national security spending.
Bishop said energy development provides resources "that are the backbone of our economy. Energy is a main way jobs can be created and people can work their way out of poverty, and it's a key to long-term growth."
McAleer said spending should be reviewed for the entire national security establishment, including the intelligence community, and the departments of both defense and homeland security.
"There seems to be duplicative and redundant organizational structures that increase cost and impedes effectiveness," she said.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, has spent much of this election year campaigning for Mitt Romney rather than for himself, touring the country and making appearances on behalf of the GOP presidential candidate.
The two-term congressman said his constituents support his making the defeat of President Barack Obama a priority.
"The best thing I can do for the state is fire Barack Obama," Chaffetz said, promising that with Romney in the White House, he would "be able to push things and get things done for Utah. My job is to become as influential as I can for the state of Utah, and I think this helps me achieve that."
His Democratic opponent, Salt Lake City Councilman Soren Simonsen, said he's ready to bring "a very independent voice" to Congress because of his experience on the non-partisan City Council where he has served since 2005.
Simonsen's campaign ran into some trouble recently when the Utah Republican Party filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission, claiming he had missed several deadlines for filing financial disclosures.
An inexperienced campaign staff was blamed for the problem and Simonsen has filed a report this month showing he has raised just over $20,000, compared with the more than $750,000 Chaffetz has collected this election cycle.
The pair differ on many issues, including how to deal with the economic downturn.
Chaffetz said electing Romney is the top fix for the economy, followed by passing a responsible budget that eventually balances and pays down the debt."
Simonsen's top two fixes are tackling the national debt where the "largest area of waste and excess is in our military," followed by developing renewable energy technology and resources.
Third-party candidates in the 2nd District are Joseph Andrade and Charles Kimball, both unaffiliated, and Jonathon Garrard from the Constitution Party. In the 1st District, Sherry Phipps is the Constitution Party candidate.
F. Jay Seegmiller
Occupation: Railroad conductor
Education: South High School, class of 1976; University of Utah
Political experience: Utah House, 2008-2010
Family: Wife, Michelle Jolley Seegmiller; four children
Occupation: Small-business owner, author, former Air Force pilot
Education: Utah State University, bachelor's degree in economics
Political experience: First-time candidate
Family: Wife, Evie; six children
Education: BYU, bachelor's degree
Political experience: U.S. House, 2008 to present
Family: Wife, Julie; three children
Occupation: Architect/community planner
Education: University of Texas, bachelor's degree in architecture; completing master's degree in community leadership at Westminster College
Political experience: Salt Lake City Council, 2005 to present
Family: Wife, Heather; three children
Residence: Salt Lake City
Education: University of Utah, political science degree
Political experience: U.S. House, 2002 to present; Utah Republican Party chairman; Utah House speaker; Utah House member
Family: Wife, Jeralynn Hansen Bishop; five children
Residence: Brigham City
Occupation: Author, ski instructor
Education: U.S. Military Academy at West Point, 1987; University of Virginia Darden School of Business, 1993
Political experience: First-time candidate
Family: Husband, Ted; one child
Residence: Park City
E-mail: [email protected]