Jacquelyn Orton
Jacquelyn Orton announced her plans to run for the District 24 seat for the Utah House of Representatives on Wednesday, May 31, 2017. Orton is the widow of former 3rd District Rep. Bill Orton.

SALT LAKE CITY — With the news Tuesday that Salt Lake Democrat Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck will not seek re-election, the widow of a former congressman on Wednesday declared her candidacy for Utah's 24th District House seat.

Jacquelyn Orton was joined by her two sons, Will, 22, and Wes, 20, as she announced her goal to replace her friend and fellow Democrat, Chavez-Houck. Orton's sons were her biggest advocates Wednesday, touting her hard work as a single-parent since the death of their father, Bill Orton, in 2009.

Bill Orton served three terms in Congress as the Democratic representative for Utah's 3rd District from 1991 to 1997. He died in an all-terrain vehicle accident.

"My mom stepped up, took the reins, didn't skip a beat and she is the entire reason why our family has survived this far," Wes Orton said. "I have never seen any greater display of strength than that."

Though she had worked on dozens of campaigns, as well as lobbied at the Alabama and Utah legislatures, U.S. Congress and the White House, Orton noted her initial hesitance to become a candidate herself.

While she rebuffed requests from local Democratic Party members, she said she began to see a lot of recommendations from friends and neighbors, asking her to run.

"I finally allowed myself to ponder the possibilities of seeking an elected office," Orton said.

She said she plans to work with stakeholders to find new solutions for air quality and to protect natural resources. Orton also wants to focus on improving education opportunities and advocate for health care.

She said her experience and friendships on both sides of the aisle will uniquely situate her to find compromises between political parties and interest groups.

During Wednesday's news conference, Will Orton described how his mother balanced her active political and community involvement with her role as a parent, helping him through learning challenges in school. He attributed his recent graduation from Brown University with a bachelor's in geochemistry to his mother's help.

"When she passed 4,000 school-volunteer hours, she stopped counting," he said.