Davina Smith’s courageous candidacy can motivate a state
A woman’s run for the legislature can help encourage others to challenge the Republican regime.
There are few hometown neighborhoods in the United States as iconic as Monument Valley. The stunning desert setting remains the ultimate reminder of geological time – and prospect in our time of pandemic, drought, and petty politics.
On a recent cold and windy day in mid-December, Davina Smith, accompanied by her father, rode a horse named Oreo from their family’s corral, located under towering red cliffs, to the center of home of Monument Valley Tribal Park. This is the part of Utah and America where Davina was born and raised. A place of indigenous generations spanning hundreds and hundreds of years who built homes and cultivated the land long before persecuted Mormon settlers moved west.
The father-daughter trot lasted an hour. Parka-clad family, neighbors, friends and other supporters from as far away as Wasatch County and Salt Lake City gathered under the sloping sunlight and kept warm in eating mutton stew.
We were all there to share Davina’s announcement as the Democratic Party candidate for the District of House 69. The vast area of southeastern Utah is currently represented by controversial Republican politician Phil Lyman. Lyman, who spent time in jail after being convicted of federal charges following a protest on public land while on an ATV, was later pardoned by former President Trump. In previous elections, the Blanding-based GOP representative was re-elected with wide margins. The new district combines the counties of San Juan and the Grands, including the outdoor recreation mecca of Moab, making it more politically competitive.
Davina Smith is the first Dine, or Navajo, woman to run for a seat in the Utah Legislature. Its decision is already historic in this sense. But the campaign would be even stronger if it won, which will require help – donations, volunteering, newscasting and building momentum. Smith’s background prepared her to be an effective lawmaker in the Utah capital defined by skyscrapers, not sandstone mounds. She has considerable experience in imparting indigenous wisdom regarding the protection of Utah’s public lands, including the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, and various other rural health and education initiatives in the Utah.
Smith’s candidacy also sends a powerful message to demoralized Democrats across our state. Utah’s politically unbalanced legislature recently approved new electoral cards that were widely seen as gerrymandered to favor Republicans, particularly the congressional card. These politicians have ignored fairer maps proposed by the Utah Independent Redistribution Commission, a less partisan and more transparent process adopted by voters in a 2018 ballot proposal.
The effect has been appalling for democracy in our state. Not a single Democratic Party candidate has yet announced his candidacy for Congress in any of Utah’s four districts, so far leaving incumbent Republican officials to fight only intra-party challengers. How much more extreme will Utah’s GOP get if it isn’t challenged by Democrats in upcoming election days?
The market for political ideas in the Hive State has taken a hit, on purpose. Sadly, the new “Utah Way” appears to be one of slamming doors, avoiding sunlight during deliberations of great public importance, and depriving voters of their voting rights by manipulating their ballot box options. Too many Utah politicians seem to fear free market type political competition. Too many of them still reject a substantial part of “us the people”.
I drove six hours in my old Salt Lake truck to witness Davina Smith’s announcement for one simple reason. The personal history, deep experience, and quiet confidence of this compelling candidate will, I believe, motivate many Utahns – Republicans with a conscience, principled and persevering Democrats, and others who are not affiliated – to help. to ensure a better political balance in our rapidly growing and diversifying State. .
Davina has chosen to lead and not to be defeatist. She is the latest example of what other strong women and other strong Democrats in Utah have done for many decades: stand up, speak out, and step forward when it counts.
In Davina Smith of Monument Valley, hometown zip code 84536, Utah has a candidate who demonstrates the toughest and most important courage – the courage of one.
Personal courage that can motivate two, one group, one tribe, one county, one district, one state – and even one country.
Kael weston, author, teacher, former U.S. State Department official, and Rotarian, was the 2020 Democratic Party candidate for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District.