OGDEN — What had been a three-candidate race on the Republican side for the District 8 seat at Utah House is suddenly a two-way contest.
Steve Waldrip, the two-term holder, announced Wednesday that he is stepping down from the race to focus more on the Rocky Mountain Homes Fund, a nonprofit entity he helped create that helps families in workers to own their homes. On the GOP side, that leaves Jason Kyle and Kimberly Cozzens, who will square off at the Utah Republican Party convention on Saturday.
Monica Hall is running as a Democrat for the seat, which covers part of the East Ogden Bench and the Ogden Valley area, infiltrating a small portion of Morgan County.
Waldrip, more moderate than his two GOP challengers, said he would complete his year-long term. His announcement, however, puts a turning point in the race just days before GOP loyalists weigh in on the candidates at the party’s convention.
“I am leaving the race because I have a unique opportunity over the next few years to have a significant impact on the availability and affordability of housing with the social investment fund that I co-founded. The Rocky Mountain Homes Fund fills an enormous need in our state and will require my full time and attention to manage and direct current and projected growth,” Waldrip said in a statement to GOP delegates that he also provided to the Standard Examiner. “I believe this is where I can have the greatest impact for the good of our community right now.”
Waldrip previously secured a spot in the June 28 primary ballot via collecting signatures on petitions, but now Saturday’s Utah Republican Party convention will be used to determine which GOPer goes to the ballot.
Kyle and Cozzens could both end up in the primary ballot on June 28 if neither gets more than 60% support at the convention. But if one garners more than 60% support, that candidate moves on alone and goes straight to the November general election ballot against Hall.
In his campaign, Kyle, of Hunstville, cites concerns about the possible influx of “California-style politics” into Utah, which he describes as “insane”. Utah lawmakers “have to fight against that,” he said. He unsuccessfully ran for District 8 in 2018.
In various posts on his Facebook page, all before Wednesday’s news, Kyle also took several jabs at Waldrip. Among other things, he cited Incumbent’s apparent support for measures that promote high-density housing and said Waldrip “either isn’t really pro-life or he’s given up.”
Cozzens, a first-time candidate, cited inspiration from an array of conservative lawmakers as she threw her hat into the ring, including U.S. Senator Mike Lee of Utah, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem and former Utah Representative Steve Christiansen.
“Their passion made me want to know more,” especially their passion for the US Constitution, Cozzens said. She is drawn to conservatives “who aren’t afraid to stand up for conservative values.”
Cozzens, of Huntsville, also opposed Waldrip, who is from the Eden area. “I was more conservative. I rely on the Constitution,” she said.
Last month, before Wednesday’s news, Waldrip said in a Facebook post that he usually tells those who ask him he’s running again because there’s work left in the Utah legislature. Inspired by a rally that day in Salt Lake City called to support Ukraine in the face of invading Russia, he said there was more to it.
Seeing such a demonstration, “I then remember the real work in our state,” he wrote in the March 2 post. “It’s to show that our greatness comes from our goodness, and that the only way for us to be great is to be good.”
Kyle and Cozzens offer similar views in several areas. Both expressed strong pro-life positions and both identified education – a hot topic in Utah due to the debate over critical race theory and the use of masks in schools during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic – as a key issue.
Cozzens, primarily a stay-at-home mom these days between campaigning and alternative education, stressed the importance of ensuring parents have a say in education.
“I want parents to have a voice at school board meetings without fear of negative repercussions,” she said. She hasn’t heard from parents in the Weber school district, where she lives, facing backlash for speaking out, but the possibility, generally speaking, is ‘closer and closer’ .
Kyle, who works in manufacturing management and has a background in chemical engineering, said the public needs to set parameters for the school curriculum, leaving other subjects out of schools. “We teach values at home,” he said.
At the same time, medical confidentiality is a big concern for both. The issue has gained momentum for some due to rules and guidelines implemented during the pandemic requiring people in certain circumstances to prove they have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Plain and simple, you shouldn’t have to share your medical information to enter a place of business here in this state or anywhere in this country,” Cozzens said on his website. “You shouldn’t have to share your private medical information with your employer to keep your job.”
Kyle expressed similar sentiments, particularly regarding employers requiring employee vaccinations. “People shouldn’t lose their jobs if they don’t want to be vaccinated,” Kyle said.
He expressed support for a measure proposed in the 2022 legislative session that would have prohibited public places, government and employers from requiring vaccinations, House Bill 60. Waldrip voted against the measure, Kyle pointed out, but although she was eventually adopted in Utah. House, he never got a vote in the Senate and passed out.
Kyle said he “stands for women’s sports” and supports House Bill 11, the measure that bans transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports in Utah high schools. It passed the legislature, Governor Spencer Cox vetoed it, and then lawmakers overruled the veto in a special session last month.