UVU student Colby Johnson has officially announced his candidacy for the District 63 seat in the Utah House of Representatives.
Johnson, who formally announced his candidacy for a seat in the Utah House of Representatives on March 3, 2014, hopes one of the messages his campaign sends is that we can all get involved with political office.
Johnson is campaigning for seat 63 of Utah’s 75 districts, which covers a portion of Provo. If elected, teaching others how to run for office will be a focus for Johnson.
“The process is kind of difficult and you almost have to be a political insider or be a campaign insider and approach someone and say ‘hey we think you should run for office,’ and I think that’s bad,” said Johnson.
“I think we need to make it more of an open and transparent process so that anyone feels like they can run for office. So when someone feels that they are paying too high a rate of taxes or that there is an issue they care about they feel empowered and able to just run for office.”
While the seat he is campaigning for is in the Southern Provo area, Johnson said that he hopes his campaign will resonate a message throughout the state, inspiring others to get involved in the political world.
“I love to foster a healthy democratic process, so even if it means I get challengers next time, I’m committed to teach people how to run for office,” said Johnson.
“I do want to spread the message of proper representation all over this state and that everyone can be involved in politics and that everyone should be adequately represented.”
The importance of proper representation is clear in the main tagline of Johnson’s campaign, “Rep for Provo, rep for you.”
“I want to represent the constituency. That is my number one thing; proper representation,” said Johnson.
“To do that you have to be involved with them, you have to be able to reach out to them and have them reach out to you. “
Reflective of his desire to inspire others to be more involved with politics, Johnson is funding his campaign on about the cost of a semester’s worth of schooling.
He hopes that the modest budget for his campaign will show others that anyone can afford to run for a political office if they so chose to.
“I would love to see more non-professional politicians,” said Johnson. “More school teachers, more moms, more young people—people from diverse situations and backgrounds running to represent their area and their constituency. I think that’s how good government happens.”
His campaign is also not accepting any donations. What Johnson prefers instead is volunteer work over money. He’s calling this aspect of his campaign “legs over wallets.”
“I’m funding it completely myself,” said Johnson. “Because I believe that politics and government shouldn’t be an issue of how much money you have to donate but rather people getting involved and volunteering.”
Students sometimes opt out of registering to vote in Utah since they see their time in Utah as temporary. In an effort to attract the student vote found in district 63, Johnson is seeking to improve student voting through his ‘vote where you breathe’ campaign push.
“Many students talk about the air quality,” said Johnson. “They need to be involved in voting to have that legislation passed. And so ‘vote where you breathe’ is a big thing.”
Another area of focus in his campaign is having a strong caucus presence.
“Ultimately we’re looking for involvement. So we’re just campaigning for everyone to get out to their caucuses because that’s the most important thing,” said Ashley Robinson, Johnson’s campaign manager.
“We have been courting delegates who at their caucus meetings will go to their county convention and vote at the convention for the representative who they think will be the best for district 63. So really the strategy that we’re taking right now is the highest amount of caucus attendance that we can get.”
For Johnson’s campaign there are a few important milestones leading up to his possible victory. The first is how well he performs at the county convention on April 12.
Representative Dean Sanpei, the incumbent for District 63 has yet to formally file for re-election. It’s likely he will however. If that happens Sanpei and Johnson will be present for the county convention where the delegates will place their votes.
If Johnson can secure 60% or more of the delegate vote then there is a chance Johnson will have secured the Republican nomination for the seat.
If Sanpei and Johnson’s votes are split evenly, then a primary race will be held in June. The winner of that race will become the Republican nomination for the District 63 seat and will face off against the Democratic nominee in a general election taking place in November.
In recent years there have not been any Democratic Party candidates, so whichever candidate secures the Republican nomination may not have to compete in a general election in November.
This means that Johnson could both secure the Republican nomination and the District 63 seat by the time the county convention ends in April.
Johnson has been attending UVU for about 18 months. He is studying finance, and transferred to UVU after attending BYU for two years.
“I have a job, I remodel homes and purchase homes and rent them out to students. I love UVU because it facilitates my needs,” said Johnson.
“My professors are willing to work with me when I’m not able to attend class. They understand that other students have busy lives and other things to do… I’ve had a wonderful, well-rounded experience where I’ve been able to focus on business, focus on school, my social life and government all at the same time.”