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Election 2020: 1st Congressional Democratic Candidate Darren Parry On Public Lands, Being Moderate

Photo of a man speaking into a microphone
Pool photo
Public land is one of Darren Parry's top priorities in running for Utah’s 1st Congressional District. He says the land should remain under federal, rather than state, control.";

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. 

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

Democratic candidate Darren Parry grew up in Utah’s 1st Congressional District. For two years he served as the chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation, based out of Brigham City, but has since resigned as chair to run this campaign.

He said his grandmother passed down his indigenous culture to him and that it has impacted his work on behalf of the tribe with Utah’s governor, Legislature and Congress.

“How we honor our elders, how we take care of people, how we honor the environment,” Parry said. “All of those things have shaped who I am today.”

Public land is one of Parry’s top priorities. A Congressional report shows 63% of Utah’s land is owned by the federal government. Parry said it should stay that way and not be under state control.

“I don't trust the state of Utah to do anything good with those lands,” he said. “I believe — and I've heard lawmakers talk about — how they would sell it off to the highest bidder.”

But in 2017, Parry penned a letter about one of Utah’s most controversial public lands issues in recent memory: the designation of the Bears Ears National Monument. He wrote that it wouldn’t really benefit tribes.

Congressman Bishop submitted the letter into the record as an argument for downsizing the monument by 85%, which President Donald Trump did in December 2017.

Parry said he was never against Bears Ears — just how it was made. 

“If I don't like President Trump ruling by executive order, then I have to have a small problem with the way Obama created Bears Ears,” he said. “Even though it accomplished protecting those sacred lands.”

Compared to his opponent Jamie Cheek’s progressive agenda, Parry identifies as the moderate candidate in the race. He said even if every Democrat in the district voted, it wouldn’t be enough.

“How can you engage the Republican side?” he said. “Because to win, you're going to have to get a lot of Republicans to switch over and vote for you.”

Parry said he’s the candidate who can do that.

“Regardless of where your political affiliation is, I think Democrats, Republicans could absolutely get on board with the things that I believe in.”

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

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

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

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