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Kathryn Allen, Chaffetz Challenger: 3rd District Needs 'Strong Medicine'

Julia Ritchey, KUER
Kathryn Allen at her home in Cottonwood Heights. Allen is running as a Democrat against Republican incumbent Jason Chaffetz in next year's 3rd Congressional District race.

Kathryn Allen made headlines earlier this month after raising half a million dollars to challenge five-time Republican incumbent Jason Chaffetz in next year's election.

A longtime physician, Allen, a Democrat, says resident of Utah's 3rd Congressional District are ready for a change. KUER's Julia Ritchey sat down with Allen in her home  in Cottonwood Heights to learn more about her longshot campaign. Below are select excerpts from their interview.

Q: What made you decide to throw your hat in the ring?

Allen: I think it was actually somewhat of a gradual process. I remember saying to my husband, 'I'm thinking about running for Congress,' and he just kind of looked at me like 'Are you crazy?' But it crystallized over quite a period of time. I started working first on gerrymandering, and I came to the conclusion that the reason we have Trump in office right now was in-state gerrymandering. It's just so prevalent across the United States, that it literally muted many people's voices.

...And I started paying more attention to Jason. Right after the election, in fact, I started sending him a series of messages asking him to investigate Trump. So none of this produced any results, so I started thinking, 'Is this really what a public servant does? Is ignore the wishes of their constituents?' And I worked for the Congress as a young woman — we answered every letter.

Q: When did your crowdfunding campaign start gaining traction?

Allen: Nothing much happened until I Tweeted about his iPhone remark. I think my Tweet was something to the effect, 'iPhone vs. health care. Citizens have to make a choice. Yes, they do Jason.' And then I put my Crowdpac  page. And I started raising money from that Tweet, and then Rosie O'Donnell retweeted it to her million followers, and so I started raising money so fast that I called the FEC and asked what my status was. They said, 'Well, you aren't going to look like an exploratory campaign with that much money in your account, so you should file.' ...And then the next thing I know Rachel Maddow was covering me because the Crowdpac organization that helps people do exploratory campaigns was astounded by the rate of the fundraising. They said I broke all their records, and they called Rachel Maddow.

Q: There are those that argue that time and money would be better spent on supporting Chaffetz's primary challenger, Republican Damian Kidd, instead of a Democratic candidate. How do you respond to those critics?

Allen: The people who donated to me donated to me because they believe in my message, which is totally different than Damian Kidd's message. If you look at his platform, it's basically Jason 2.0, without the baggage. Yes, I'm told all the time what a conservative district it is, and it's an uphill battle and a heavy lift and various other metaphors, but I'm doing it anyway.

...I get frustrated when Democrats want to go vote in the [Republican] primary because I think that means they don't believe that we can do this. I'm not going to be unrealistic, but I think I can reach people. I think that because I've been a physician, and I've worked in the trenches, and I have a long history of building trustful relationships with my patients and being a healer — our campaign is going to emphasize that. I think the 3rd District needs healing — it needs medical care — and I have some strong medicine for it.

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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