ST. GEORGE — Ashley Jolin, a Democratic candidate running for a seat to represent Utah’s second congressional district, will be visiting St. George Saturday in an effort to learn about the issues important to the Southern Utah community.
Jolin told St. George News she is running for Rep. Chris Stewart’s seat in hopes to better represent Utah as a Democratic candidate.
Despite having the Democratic designation on the ballot, however, she said she is running as a Utahn first and foremost. She doesn’t want to be confined to party lines and is prepared to vote for people over politics.
Jolin graduated from the University of Utah in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She said she first became interested in politics after witnessing the hardships of a family member as he attempted to navigate the intricacies of government programs and health care.
“I’ve been disappointed over the years, so that’s why I decided to step up,” she said.
She became involved in politics hoping to be a well-rounded, respectable public servant. In her capacity as a student in Salt Lake City, Jolin conducted research on foreign policy, health care and disability rights.
She also gained foreign policy experience while working with the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, and at the Ministry of Social Development in Amman, Jordan, after working on a number of political campaigns and fulfilling her role as a campaign manager.
“I felt that if you’re going to be a good representative, you should know how to run a good campaign,” Jolin said.
Following graduation, Jolin continued her work at the university as an academic program manager before branching out into the realm of finance as a financial adviser for Merrill Lynch where she gained experience in wealth management and banking.
“I’ve been wanting to run for this particular seat since I was in grade school,” she said. “I have known that I have always wanted to do this, so I wanted to be well-educated on a wide array of issues.”
Jolin founded the nonpartisan organization Emerging Leaders Initiative, which aims to civically engage the younger generation by helping them register to vote, offering them resources to learn about political issues and preparing them to run for office. The organization’s co-founder, Don Willie, is Dixie State University’s executive director of technology, innovation and design, and was just named the new president and CEO of the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We need to make sure that the next generation of leaders are getting the tools they need and are represented,” Jolin said. “It’s nonpartisan, and I think that’s a great demonstration of my priorities.”
It was important to Jolin that the platform be comprised of local issues that affect almost every Utahn, including increasing the number of well-paying jobs with benefits in the state, working to increase access to affordable healthcare, preserving Social Security and being good stewards of public lands and water.
Jolin isn’t the first candidate to announce she will be running for Stewart’s seat. Mary Burkett and Ty Jensen previously filed to run for the seat as Republican candidates while Larry Livingston has announced his candidacy as a Democrat. John Molnar initially announced his campaign as a Republican before ultimately running as a Libertarian.
Stewart has maintained the congressional set for four terms and has recently come under fire from both sides of the partisan line for his vocal support of President Donald Trump, especially during the impeachment trials.
However, Jolin said she believes it’s important for congressional representatives to stick to at-home concerns.
“We need to be focusing on working to build a better future for Utah,” Jolin said. “I think that our current representation is focused too much on what’s going on in Washington and not enough on what’s going on at home.”
During a tour throughout Utah, Jolin said she wants to hear from voters in each area to get a better understanding of other issues that are affecting residents across the state.
Alongside her campaign, Jolin is actively working against legislation that she says could have a detrimental effect on residents across the state. The recent tax bill passed by the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force is an example of legislation Jolin is speaking on.
Jolin has spoken about the impact the food and gas tax will have on different regions of the state, adding that the bill would disproportionately affect rural Utahns who have to commute farther and more often. Throughout her campaign, she will be giving event participants the opportunity to sign a referendum filed in opposition to the committee’s decision.
She said her job as a representative would be to act as an advocate for the people of Utah, and that includes educating the public on important or influential legislation.
“I think the community deserves a leader who is going to actively listen to everyone, not just people with deep pockets,” she said.
Jolin is hosting an event Saturday from 9-11 a.m. at Affogato West in St. George where she hopes to introduce herself and her platform to the people of Southern Utah as well as hear what issues are important to the community.
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