“Surreal.” That was the word Democratic candidate for U.S. Representative of Utah’s Third District Dr. Kathryn Allen used to describe her transformation from private citizen to aspiring public servant.
A former family physician, Allen was thrust into the spotlight last week, following Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s ill-conceived remarks comparing the cost of healthcare to that of an iPhone. The outcry was immediate and condemnatory. For Allen, still in the exploratory phase of her campaign, the national outrage manifested as an unbelievable surge in campaign donations, leaving her with a war chest of over $450,000. By way of comparison, none of Chaffetz’s past opponents have ever spent more than $60,000.
This good fortune has not come without some difficulties. Allen had not intended to declare her candidacy quite so early but acted in the interest of seizing the momentum and formally declared her run for office. She has had to scramble since to put together a campaign team and begin to articulate her policy stances.
Politically, Dr. Allen hopes to position herself as someone who is both fairly progressive yet able to cross party lines.
“I have some views that some liberals would take shots at,” she said. “I’m a grounded, practical person. I think the way I will get to voters is personally … the same way I do as a physician.”
On the issue of healthcare, she had a great deal to say, much of it informed by her medical background.
“There were things I liked and didn’t like about the ACA”, she explained. “I liked that it provided access. That’s the number one thing it did. It helped people who were poor or in the middle class.”
She recounted a story about a patient of hers who was unable to afford specialized care before the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. Nonetheless, she admitted that she is not wholly in favor of it.
“I was disappointed that it didn’t provide a protection for patients to keep their primary care doctor,” she said. “I was disappointed with the overregulation.”
However, she does not see the new American Health Care Act as a remedy. Under the proposed AHCA, she warned, the ones most hurt would be children and the poor.
On other issues, Allen took firmer stances. She cites corporate greed as the main obstacle stopping what she sees as a necessary transition to clean air technologies. Regarding education, she notes that while public schools have many flaws, doing away with them would be harmful to students. She cited a study that found the performance of children transferred from public schools to charter schools worsened and reiterated her support for improving our public education system.
As concerns the Trump Administration’s immigration policy, she disagrees with breaking up families and recent travel bans.
“Immigration is a complex issue, but disrupting families and taking parents away from children … I think that’s morally repugnant,” she said. “We do need some reform of immigration policy, but these Muslim bans are not the way to go about it.”
Allen faces an uphill battle. Her presumptive opponent, Rep. Chaffetz, has never won Utah’s Third District with less than 65 percent of the vote; his most recent victory garnered him 73 percent. The majority of Utah voters are registered Republicans with the second largest bloc being independents. Unlike Dr. Allen, Chaffetz is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, an advantage in a district where the majority of voters and political networks share his faith.
Kathryn Allen trusts, however, that she will be able to reach independents and moderate Republicans as well as those who consider Rep. Chaffetz to have failed his duties as a public servant. She believes that he has tied himself to the Trump White House and that this will tarnish his name and reputation.
“This Trump Administration has got to go … and Chaffetz is part of it,” she said.