Salt Lake City, UT – Rob Bishop taught high school history in Brigham City before he won his first term in Congress in 2003. Morgan Bowen is currently teaching high school students at the LDS seminary at Sky View High School in Smithfield. This is the second time they've faced off in the election for Utah's 1st District seat in the House of Representatives.
Bowen, didn't draw much of a crowd for a scheduled Democratic Party town meeting at a park in Logan last weekend. So he walked across Merlin Olsen Park to a spot where there was a crowd, the regular Saturday farmer's market, and spoke to voters there.
Congressman Bishop is meeting his opponent for debates only a few times during this campaign. Instead, he appears to be running - successfully - against the Democratic leadership of the House.
The crowd was a lot bigger at a rally in Sandy, where 1st District Congressman Bishop turned out to support the Republican candidate in the 2nd District, Morgan Philpot. Bishop used the occasion to campaign, but not against his nominal opponent,
"Now I'm sorry, but the speaker sets the agenda," Bishop said, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "Now if you don't like what Congress has been doing for the last two years, and you ought not, you realize it is her agenda that has been going forward. And what we need, more than anything else is to make sure there are votes that change the person who will set the agenda."
Bishop then held up a thousand-dollar check to add to Philpot's campaign fund. He hasn't needed it for his own campaign this year. The Federal Election Commission website shows he's raised more than 200-thousand dollars in this election cycle. At last report, Democrat Bowen had raised about 55-hundred dollars.
Stopping the Democrats' agenda in Congress is how Bishop sees his job right now. Bishop included "Obamacare, cap-and-tax, stimulus bill, TARP bill even though it came in the other administration, it was still coming through Speaker Pelosi's hands" on his list of programs he's working to stop.
Once again, Bishop mentions Pelosi as his political nemesis. It was the same when he addressed the state Republican convention in May.
"I admit Speaker Pelosi makes it easier. I admit that every bill she allows on the floor has some kind of flaw, so it's easy to vote no. In fact, the President said we are the party of "no." However, he is wrong. For those of you that heard John Boehner on the floor during the health care debate, we are not the party of "no." We are the party of, 'Hell, no!'"
And Bowen, who sees himself as a conservative Democrat, is clearly tired of being tied to a politician who's much better known than he is. He told KUER, "Nancy Pelosi represents San Francisco, California, on the peninsula there and it's an extremely, uh, liberal or left-leaning district. It wouldn't necessarily fit our district, I mean, she wouldn't get elected here. And people say Who you gonna support for speaker?' And I'd have to wait and see who's running for speaker. Who's in control of Congress come January? That's yet to be seen as well."
Bowen does get animated when he starts talking about the economy. He accuses Wall Street bankers of gambling away the money saved by ordinary Americans in exotic financial schemes. His solution? A tax similar to the cut the state of Nevada takes on gambling proceeds. "One thing we need to do is put a one-percent fee on all derivatives and hedge fund type trades," he says. "Conservative estimates say that would bring in 300 to 500 billion dollars a year. That would enable us to raise the revenue we need to tackle the deficit and at the same time, allow us so we don't have to taxes on anybody in this country. I think that would be a great first step for accountability for those who have literally driven this country's economy over a cliff."
A Dan Jones-Deseret News poll published this week shows Bishop with a lead of 66 to 27 percent, a huge difference even with a 7-point margin of error. And Bishop says the enthusiasm of the Tea Party movement in this election doesn't necessarily give Republicans an edge, even as he brings the conversation back around to the opponent he likes to talk about most.
"You may say there is a frustration with the last couple of years with this administration and with Speaker Pelosi's handling of Congress, but I've seen those elements in other areas and other times as well."