Since announcing her campaign for the U.S. Senate in July, Ally Isom has made a point of listening to constituents from around the state. On Thursday, Oct. 14, Isom met with a group of college students at the Provo City Library to discuss solutions to the challenges Utahns face.
Isom — a veteran of government who served as deputy chief of staff to former Gov. Gary Herbert — began by explaining why she chose to make her first foray into electoral politics by challenging two-term incumbent Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
“During the past five years or so, I’ve been disheartened by the schism in our country, by the rancor and toxicity in the public dialogue,” Isom said. “On Jan. 4, 5, and 6, three women in my world from different arenas reached out to me and said ‘I really wish you’d think about challenging Mike Lee.’ Then I watched the Capitol under attack on [Jan. 6] in tears and thought ‘I want my country back. I want my party back.’ It’s time for good people to get off the sidelines … We need good people who will come to the middle and work on good solutions to get things done.
“Politicians have been opportunistic to set themselves apart, they’ve used really hostile rhetoric. I’m not one who’s going to wake up and look for a microphone, I want to get stuff done.”
Through her campaign’s “Walk a Mile” initiative, Isom has met with leaders and community members throughout the state. During these walks — accompanied by her ubiquitous pair of red running shoes — Isom said she tries to understand what issues impact residents on a regular basis, and how to address them.
“When I’m talking to real Utahns and ask them what is top of mind, they don’t bring up culture wars, they don’t bring up future presidential nominees,” Isom said. “They’re talking to me about water, housing, smart growth in infrastructure. Many of them are tired of the fighting and divisiveness, many of them want leaders who will see them and hear them … and advocate for them in D.C. That’s really my focus right now.”
The future of the GOP
Leading up to Donald Trump’s election in 2016, Isom became unaffiliated from the Republican Party, a move that her opponents are already trying to use against her. For Isom, the decision was a matter of integrity: to reject and condemn offensive rhetoric, including the recording of Trump obtained by Access Hollywood.
“For me, my identity has never changed. I’ve been a Republican since I registered to vote,” Isom said. “I was working on women’s issues, race issues, LGBTQ issues, interfaith issues, and there were things being said publicly that offended my senses on all of those fronts. For me, it was a matter of pragmatism and integrity.”
While she is running as a Republican in 2022, Isom hopes to shape the future of the GOP by blending a conservative platform with a diverse constituency. Isom said she strongly believes in a “big tent party” that operates free from the distractions of culture wars and polarizing rhetoric.
“I see the future of the party endangered if we do not pivot right now and find a way to model a more civil, a more inclusive way of problem solving,” she said. “We have to help a younger generation understand, we’re not misogynists, we’re not racist, and we reject that fundamentally, because it stifles human potential and growth. We have to make space for all voices to come back into the dialogue.”
During the discussion, one student said they felt out of place in the party because of their sexual orientation, and wondered if there was a place for them in conservative politics.
“Absolutely,” Isom said. “You can come sit by my side anytime.”
“We’ve alienated way too many people,” she continued. “Way too many people have been silenced with harsh rhetoric. I want them back in the tent, I want them back at the table. I believe it’s time for a Republican renaissance.”
‘We have got some work to do’
Isom faces a competitive field which includes former state Rep. Becky Edwards and 2016 presidential candidate Evan McMullin, as well as Sen. Lee. In addition to her government experience, Isom feels that her work in the private sector will set her apart. After leaving government, Isom worked for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and accepted an executive role in 2020 with a nanotechnology startup, EVOQ Nano.
“I think my qualifications differentiate me. I’ve had extensive public policy experience in both state agencies and the governor’s office, where we’ve grappled with some of the largest issues the state tackles,” Isom said.
“I was a business leader in a tech start-up firm where I had to make a bottom line. That is something that not one other candidate can talk about. I think I understand what Utah’s economy needs. We know that the future growth of this state is going to be driven by these new jobs that are coming into Utah, and I think I have a better sense of what’s facing Utah companies.”
Isom feels that major issues, such as water availability and economic development, have been stalled due to a lack of leadership at the federal level. She argues that as senator, an important aspect of her role would be to facilitate cooperation and support decision-makers at a local level.
“We have got some work to do, but I don’t want to prescribe what those outcomes are,” Isom said. “That’s the part of being a leader, getting everyone in a room and figuring it out together.”
Isom’s campaign still needs to gather 28,000 signatures in order to secure her place on the ballot for the Republican primary on June 28, 2022. The general election will be held Nov. 8, 2022. In order to vote in the Republican primary, voters must register with the party by March 31, 2022.
More information about Isom can be found at her campaign website, allyforutah.com.
Bridger Beal-Cvetko is a senior at Utah Valley University where he is studying journalism. He has been with the UVU Review since 2019, where he has covered the UVU men’s basketball team and the softball team during his time as Sports Editor. Bridger has also worked as a producer for ESPN 960 AM. Aside from sports, Bridger is an ardent cinephile, and loves reading fantasy and science fiction novels.