Want to be politically active in Utah? Here are some starting points
When it comes to becoming more engaged in politics, the first thing that might come to mind is running for office. There are a ton of other ways to get involved, it's just that for many people, it's difficult to know where to start. KUER politics reporter and State Street co-host Sonja Hutson shared some helpful tips from the podcast’s latest episode about how anyone can step up in the community, no matter their political persuasion.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Caroline Ballard: So I think the first place people often start when they begin paying attention to politics is national politics. But that can also feel really big — kind of overwhelming. How can they take that interest further?
Sonja Hutson: This is exactly what we heard from Dominick Bolden, who is a voter that my co-host Emily [Means] profiled last year during the election. He moved to Utah a couple of years ago. He works in tech, and he's found a few issues that he's really passionate about. Black Lives Matter is one of them. He's even been to a few protests about that.
Dominick Bolden: I was at the Black Lives Matter protests last June. As a Black man from Minneapolis, I'm very passionate about that particular issue.
SH: Dominick wants to get more involved, but he just doesn't really know where to start.
CB: What has he tried up until this point?
SH: Dominick says he sent a letter to Sen. Mitt Romney last year about not filling Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court before the 2020 election. It didn't really go anywhere. He got kind of a form email back. He says that was really discouraging, and I think it is for a lot of people.
Obviously, I can't speak to whether Romney really considered Dominick's comments or even read them. But I will say you might have a lot more luck getting a response with your state and local representatives just because they have way fewer constituents than Sen. Romney does. And within local and state politics, Dominick wanted to know, where is it effective for him to get involved?
CB: All right, so where is it effective?
SH: We talked to Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou. She is the CEO of Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources or PIK2AR. She's also on the KUER Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee. Over the past six years, Susi has been involved in advocacy work with the arts, domestic violence and the Pacific Islander community. She says it's easiest to learn by doing.
An example of that is when she took a group of young Pacific Islander men up to the Capitol to ask a senator to support more funding for domestic violence shelters. So she walked this group through exactly how it works. And while they were up there, she took a photo of them at the Capitol outside the Senate chamber because she says it's really important for them to see themselves there.
Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou: It's a big deal for them to be in a space that [is] not usually comfortable for people of color to go to and minoritized communities — you don't really know if you're really wanted or accepted in those types of spaces. And so it was really important to me — like we belong here just like everybody else does.
CB: What was Susi's advice for someone like Dominick Bolden, someone who's still trying to figure out how to navigate all this?
SH: So she gave us a step-by-step guide. I'll just go through them really quickly.
First thing is to find out who represents you in the State House and Senate. Then email them or make an appointment to introduce yourself and talk to them about what issues are important to you.
Next, look at their voting record. Talk to them about the issues that you disagree on and the ones you agree on. Then find out which lawmakers are working on issues you care about. Email them or set up a meeting to discuss whatever that issue may be.
Next, find out what organizations are doing lobbying work about the issues that you already care about. You can email them or call them. Get in contact to see how you can get involved with what they're already doing. So you don't have to reinvent the wheel here.
And then just get involved in whatever way feels most comfortable to you. That could include a lot of things. That could include testifying in committee hearings, meeting with lawmakers, organizing rallies or just doing research. There are so many ways to get involved. So if meeting with lawmakers or testifying publicly just isn't your thing, get involved with other organizations and see what else they need help with.