Running to Be Heard - by UEA Vice President Tom Nedreberg
During the UEA Convention, KUER Radio asked me to interview about House District 68 where I was a candidate. I asked the reporter why they were interested in that particular race. He said that as they looked at all the legislative races, they thought it was the most intriguing.
Rewind to March 9, 2012. I looked online to see who was running against my representative, Bill Wright, sponsor of the infamous “Sex Education” bill. There were five Republicans and one Constitutional Party candidate registered.
As I contemplated this, I just didn’t think it was right to have an election settled at convention or during a primary. It was just too big of a risk for education in Utah. So I drove to Nephi, paid the $14, and entered to run as a Democrat…even though I’m a registered independent.
Living in Rural Utah for more than 30 years, I knew my chances of winning were slim, but by entering the race, I also knew I could make education a priority issue through the election.
The campaign was long. Talking to people, going to meetings, raising money, sending out letters, knocking on doors, putting out signs, talking to more people, meeting the candidates and talking about the issues with even more people. Along the way, Wright lost a close primary election to Merrill Nelson, a much more moderate Republican. Even though I had entered to run against Wright, I wondered if things would really change. I decided to press on and build my campaign.
About a week before the election, I heard the KUER interview I had recorded earlier. They contrasted Nelson and myself on a number of issues…from energy development to Federal lands in Utah and finally to education (yes, there are important issues beyond education!). Listening, I noticed Merrill and I had very similar answers, including the need for increased K-12 education funding. I still knew I had very little chance of winning but I also felt good that education was at the forefront of the conversation.
I know many other educators also stepped forward to run for office this year: Jim Griffin (Nebo), Brad Asay (Ogden), Bonnie Flint (Davis), Chris Winn (Granite), Roger Donohoe (Cache), Christine Watkins (Carbon) and, of course, Davis UniServ Director Joel Briscoe, just to name a few. Successful or not, by stepping up, these individuals made a difference.
With the 2013 Legislature coming up in January, there is another opportunity for teachers to step up and talk with their legislators. It’s more important than ever that we, as educators, make our voices heard.
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