Former U.S. Senate candidate and founder/owner of XMission, Pete Ashdown, took to the steps of the Utah State Capitol Building on Nov. 11 to announce his campaign to be the next U.S. Senator from Utah, a seat currently held by Sen. Orrin Hatch. Hatch, born in 1934, has been Utah’s senator for 35 years since he defeated Frank Moss in 1976 by campaigning that Moss’ 18 years in the office was too many.
Ashdown ran against Hatch in 2006 and won near 31 percent of the vote. He spent about $300,000 on his first campaign, about a third of which came out of his own pocket. He has made transparency and ethical fundraising a major campaign issue and promised not to accept donations from PACs or form a super PAC. He also pledged to post all donations made to his campaign online as soon as possible.
“I want to break the mold of campaign consultants and cash,” Ashdown said. “Although strides and promises have been made by candidates running for office, who subsequently won office, the doors on our elected officials, the people working for us, inevitably swing shut to the public.”
Ashdown criticized Hatch and other politicians for not listening to constituents and focusing on fundraising.
“I do not believe everyone in Washington is self-serving and corrupt, but I have difficulty finding anyone deserving of my respect,” he said.
Ashdown is an ally of Utah’s queer community and was an outspoken advocate for an expansion of queer rights in his last campaign. He even supported marriage equality.
“The government needs to get out of the business of marriage. Anyone who stands for “limited, small government” and approves of this type of expansion needs to explain their position to me. I see no reconciliation between the two ideas. In a free country, everyone should be able to decide who their insurance benefits. Recently, I had a long conversation with an unmarried man who was taking care of his disabled sister, who was too young for Medicare. When government limits his ability to extend his insurance benefits, who exactly is being protected? In my opinion, it’s the insurance companies and not the American citizen,” Ashdown said on his campaign website.
Here is Ashdown’s speech in its entirety:
At the end of my last campaign in 2006, I believed that in spite of my failure to win election, another victory was had. By making the operations of my campaign transparent, by demonstrating accountability by publishing the details of my days, and by including anyone who wished to help craft policy, I had demonstrated a new way of campaigning. A way to utilize advanced communications to enrich and enlighten the democratic process. Yet although these efforts were praised, to this day, I believe they have not been duplicated.
Other campaigns have utilized the Internet for organizing and fundraising, but I am disappointed to see the opportunity for opening campaign operations along with accountability and transparency being lost. Although strides and promises have been made by candidates running for office, who subsequently won office, the doors on our elected officials, the people who are working for us, inevitably swing shut against the public.
Behind those doors are where decisions about our country are made, and without a window into the process, you are shut out. The balance of influence is titled, weighted, and pointed to those who have the cash to buy it. The remainder of us are left to email, phone, and petition in the hope that somehow our voice will be heard by those whose primary concern from the day they take office is their own reelection.
Since 2006, I have yearned for a candidate who could embrace and understand the potential of communication and the Internet. I have hoped for someone who sought to balance the influence of the people, all of the people, in Washington. I have wished for an individual who cared less about being relected and self preservation, than they did about moving our country forward. I do not believe everyone in Washington is self-serving and corrupt, but I have difficulty finding anyone deserving of my respect.
So it comes to this – If you are unable to respect the existing system, do you have the self respect to change the system? Running for office once is hard, I know that from experience. Today I am telling you that running for office again is even harder. I am fulfilled in my professional life. I do not need this campaign, nor do I lust for public office. Yet, life begins at the end of your comfort zone, and I still believe I can make a difference.
I must be honest though. If I thought I stood a chance of overhauling the tax code as a junior senator, I would tell you so, however, I have little to none. This campaign will confront many of the issues head-on, but primarily it is about influence. It is about what happens to someone after they win office. It is about your voice and whether it is heard. I do not pretend to channel the founding fathers, but when it comes the influence of money and government, I believe they would be ashamed. This government can not be changed by running campaigns in the same way. As in 2006, I intend to innovate rather than follow the recipe. I want to break the mold of campaign consultants and cash. I admittedly made mistakes in 2006, and I will not repeat them. I will not seek PAC funds, nor will I ever again. I will not setup a SuperPAC to funnel outrageous amounts of donor money into whatever I wish behind public inspection. I will not go begging to the those in Washington who continue to perpetrate this broken democracy.
This means of course one thing. I depend on you. I can only do this upon your shoulders. I need your help. If the people are to peacefully strike a blow to the powerful, then it needs to be done one step at a time and multiplied. With you, it is possible for this campaign to win. This is why I am proud to announce my candidacy for U.S. Senate, representing the great state of Utah.