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Election 2020: 1st Congressional Candidate Jamie Cheek On Health Care And Why A Progressive Can Win

Photo of a woman speaking into a microphone
Pool photo
Jamie Cheek says her work as a district director for the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation, which helps people with disabilities access resources to improve their quality of life, would help her represent Utah's 1st Congressional District.

After nearly 20 years, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, won’t seek re-election in Utah’s 1st Congressional District. So, the race is wide open — and it’s the only congressional seat in the state that an incumbent isn’t defending. 

It’s also the only statewide race with a Democratic primary. The district’s primary race has six candidates: four Republicans and two Democrats.

Jamie Cheek is one of the two candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the 1st Congressional District. Cheek has lived in Ogden for about nine years and is a political newcomer who has never held elected office.

But she said she understands the issues facing people in the area. That’s because of her work as a district director for the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation, which helps people with disabilities access resources to improve their quality of life. 

“I see the way that our Legislature and our federal government makes laws and how those directly impact many of our citizens,” Cheek said. “Sometimes very negatively.”

Cheek’s platform includes the Green New Deal and free tuition for public universities and technical colleges. Health care, though, is her top priority. 

“Medical debt drowns so many Americans,” she said. “I think that before we can talk about things like the economy, before we can talk about things like jobs, we have to get health care in place.”

Cheek said the coronavirus pandemic has shone a spotlight on the need for a better health care system. She said Medicare For All is the best option, but she doesn’t think that’s something that could pass immediately. 

Instead, Cheek said it’s a starting point for negotiating more progressive health care coverage.

“Maybe we result in something like a public option, where it forces insurance companies to compete with the options of the federal government,” Cheek said, “which then drives down the prices for consumers and drives down the prices for hospitals. We can see an expansion in health care in the rural areas, which specifically affects Utah.”

A Democrat hasn’t represented the 1st Congressional District for almost 40 years, when Gunn McKay lost re-election to Republican James Hansen. Cheek said that’s because every election cycle since, Democrats have put up a center-leaning candidate. 

“When given the option between a Republican and a moderate Democrat, [voters are] choosing Republican over and over and over again

That’s why she believes her progressive campaign will energize voters.

“Utah is tired of the same old, same old, and we need something different.”

Voters have already begun receiving mail-in ballots for the June 30 primary election. The registration deadline is June 19.

To learn more about Cheek’s positions — and to compare them to her opponent, Darren Parry, — check out KUER’s voter guide.

Emily Means covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @Em_Means13

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