Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Tale of Two Curtises

Some people may know that John Curtis has run for public office in the past. As a matter of fact, he has run in two separate elections previous to his bid for Provo mayor. In 2000, John Curtis ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat against Republican Curt Bramble for a Utah Senate seat. I ran across a campaign website for this particular campaign and will let Curtis explain his decision to run as Democrat for the Utah Senate:

"I am John Curtis, candidate for the Utah State Senate, District 16. John Curtis with daughter Nicole I am running because I believe deeply in a set of values which are shared by my friends and neighbors. Currently, I believe these values are not being properly represented in the legislature. As a senator, I will bring leadership on critical issues by using personal freedom, responsibility, and accountability as my foundation. I am running as a Utah County Democrat because the changes to the 2000 platform have brought it into close harmony with my core values" (emphasis added). [1]

The only question I have in regards to this aspect of Curtis' political history is surrounding the 2000 platform of the Utah County Democrats. What political philosophy or platform moved Curtis in such a strong manner as to have him switch parties in, for the most part, a Republican-dominated state? In order to answer this, I had to do some more searching and found yet another campaign website. [2] It is at this website where I found the title of this post: a little story created to show the difference between "Curt" Bramble and John Curtis, something he titled A Tale of Two Curtises [sic]. [3] This site was more informative as it had an in depth 'Q&A' section that addressed some of Curtis' strongly-held beliefs and political platforms:

Q: You sound just like a republican, why are you running as a democrat?

A: "I believe one-party dominance to be at the heart of the problem. Republicans, controlling the House, Senate and the Governor's seat have unchallenged power, allowing them to meet behind closed doors and make decisions that have been without opposing debate. I would like to see people with 'Utah County Values' running in both parties."

Q: Why should we vote for you?

A: "I am not afraid to stray form [sic] the stereotypes of the past. This is evidenced by my willingness to break from the dominate party. I believe many of the answers to today's problems will be found in creative and unconventional paths. An example of this is the gun safety fair I organized and sponsored in Provo. Without legislation and without government funds we were able to take a large step towards making guns safer in Provo."

Q: What is the single most important issue facing legislators this year?

A: "Without a doubt it is education. This state has no long term education plan. As a result our teachers are overworked, underrecognized [sic] and underpaid. Our students don't have critical text books and our classes are too large. We need leadership from the governor, and support from the legislators to give our kids the education the [sic] deserve."

Q: Why did you decide to run for this office?

A: "I'm a father of six, part owner in a company that employs over 100 Utah County families and a scout master. Believe me, I had no intention of running for elected office for any party. Yet, as I watched and listened, I felt compelled to get involved." [4]

It appears that education was at the forefront of the changes to platforms within parties that caused Curtis to run for elected office, though he admits fully that there really has been no intention of ever running for public office due to having a large family and business to operate. Yet I must raise additional questions concerning Curtis' answers.

  • Does John Curtis believe that people who do not vote or believe in similar platforms are delving into "stereotypes of the past"?
  • Curtis has stated that he wants people with "Utah County Values" to run for elected office. Are these values only found in the Democratic Party, or are they found in the Republican Party as well? What do these 'values' consist of? If individuals do not meet these 'values', then are they merely a 'stereotype' in his mind?

After John Curtis' loss to Curt Bramble for a seat in the Utah Senate he did not stay politically idle. From what I have found in public records, John Curtis was very active in the Utah County Democrats and even served as the organization's county chairman in 2002-2003. He was replaced by Roger Layton of Springville in April 2003. During his tenure as county chair, Curtis stated that the Utah County Democratic Party had seen "steady growth" within the organization and their biggest challenge was "letting people of Utah County know who we are and what we stand for." [5]

It appears that John Curtis was a rising star not only within the Utah County Democrats, but amongst all Democrats in the State of Utah. The values of this political party did align more closely to his ‘core values’, so it is not surprising that he was making great strides within this political organization. However, in 2oo6 there was a highly publicized event which has caused me wonder whether the people of Provo are dealing with A Tale of Two Curtises?

In Spring 2006, Curtis changed his political affiliation to ‘unaffiliated’ without explanation or reason. However, shortly after this time Representative Jeff Alexander resigned from his State House seat and Curtis threw his hat, once again, into the race for a State-level political seat. But there was one major difference with this political race which drew heavy criticism towards John Curtis’ campaign: this time around, he was running as a Republican. An article I found in the Deseret News adequately sums up the concerns of this decision:

“The owner of Action Target, a Provo business, Curtis ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat in 2000 against state Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, but a far more recent act clearly miffed some delegates Tuesday night: Curtis didn't register as a Republican until Nov. 30, nearly two months after Alexander announced he would give up his seat in the Utah House and the same day news reports announced the process to replace him.

Alexander's resignation came a month before the November election, too late to replace him on the ballot, and he won what would have been a ninth term because he was unopposed. The process to replace him mirrored a county Republican convention, where a pool of candidates is whittled down to two through multiple ballots” (emphasis added). [6]

Within the same article, Curtis sought to console the concerns of the leery Republican Party by telling delegates of House District 62 that he was, indeed, a “lifelong Republican” who only switched over to the Democratic Party “in an effort to give Utah County voters more choices at the ballot box.” In addition, he added the following statement:

"I've been a Republican my whole life," he said. "I joined a dramatic attempt to align the Utah County Democratic Party with Utah County values, and we changed the county party platform to reflect personal responsibility and to a pro-life position. My values have never changed. My beliefs have never changed."

This is where I start to see a distinctive tale of two very different John Curtis’. According to Curtis’ words, he had always been a Republican and not strayed from the values that this party has held. Yet as we read previously in this article, Curtis said that there were two major points behind his decision to run as a Democrat for the State Senate: 1) the changes to the 2000 Democratic platform were in “close harmony” with his “core values,” and 2) his personal belief that “one-party dominance” of the Republican Party in Utah had been providing “unchallenged power” in the legislative process.

I think anyone can clearly see that Curtis’ values had, indeed, changed quite a bit during his six-year hiatus from the Republican Party. If we are to take Curtis’ opinions and beliefs during his tenure as a Democrat, coupled with his awakening of Republican values, then he was apparently on a mission to convert Democrats to the ‘right-side’ of the political spectrum. Or maybe Curtis was working as a double-agent to investigate both sides of the political spectrum in the State of Utah? Or did he just feel obligated to run as a Democrat and support their value statements and platform to provide a ballot initiative for political diversity? In his own words, Curtis stated that while he was a Democrat he “remained true to Republican values, principles and platforms” all while “successfully moving the Utah County Democratic Party to the right.” [7] How can you remain true to the values, principles and platforms of the Republican Party if you are a Democrat?

And now we find John Curtis running, yet again, for another political office. This time he is trying his luck with a non-partisan race. This fact alone is both convenient for Curtis but provides a huge disadvantage to the residents of Provo: Curtis is able to hide his background of political experimentation and self-awakening, all the while Provo residents must trust what John Curtis tells them regarding his background, philosophies, and, more importantly, his values. However, this is not a normal mayoral race that Curtis is attempting to obtain, as he is positioning himself to take the most powerful elected position in Utah County. Since Provo is the Seat of Utah County, the mayor of Provo has an extraordinary amount of political influence inside and outside of the city boundaries.

The question I am asking myself, and the people of Provo, is simply “Who is John Curtis?” He has a track record as both a Democrat and a Republican, and even though the Utah County Democratic Party has a platform which aligns closely to Curtis’ “core values”, he has always been, and always will be, “true to the Republican values, principles and platforms.” Is Curtis a Democrat, a Republican, or is he somewhere in-between the two parties? What are Curtis’ ‘core values’ that have caused him to jump between parties and run for two state-level political seats on two very different political parties? Has Curtis found his political identity well enough to be the solid, clear, and concise leader that Provo needs out its next mayor? Or will Curtis’ ambitious goals and platform fall flat once he is in office because of a change in platform and/or philosophy?

Will the real John Curtis please come forward?