Improving the quality of education in Utah and around the nation is one of the issues at the heart of the current Utah Senate Democratic Leader’s campaign to unseat U.S. Senate veteran Orrin Hatch in the upcoming election.
Scott Howell, democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, unseated a republican incumbent for his first term in the Utah State Legislature. During that term, Howell introduced legislation to make kindergarten part of the standard Utah education system.
After returning to Utah from a small-town community in Georgia where he and his family lived, Howell enrolled his oldest child, Bryan, into the local kindergarten program.
When he learned the class only met a couple hours during the day and that Bryan made the 34th child in the class. Howell said he realized something needed to change.
“We were cheating Bryan from his ability to compete,” Howell said.
In an attempt to instigate change in the school system, Howell became a member of the local school board. When he learned the board had virtually no power to allocate additional funds or reform school programs, Howell decided to run as a democrat for the seat in Senate District 4, the Holiday-Cotton area of Salt Lake City.
“Short of ecclesiastical doctrine, the best thing we can do for our children is to allow them to compete in a global economy,” Howell said. “The key to unlock the future is a quality education.”
With both parents and a sister involved in the education field, quality learning is very much a family affair with the Howells just as campaigning for the senator around election time has become a near ritual for both extended and immediate family members.
Throughout his last three campaigns, family members have made and posted signs, stuffed envelopes, held neighborhood open houses as a forum for Howell, and campaigned door-to-door in order to ask voters to elect him, Howell’s sister, Karen Brown, said.
Brown recalled washing Howell’s car while they were growing up in Salt Lake City then asking: “Now why did I do that?”
“Everybody helped him,” she said. “He’s always organized things – he’s just a motivator.”
Although Howell said he recognizes the uphill battle, Howell has applied a giant-slayer mentality to unseating the 24-year veteran from realizing his sixth term in office.
Howell said new blood in Washington is necessary and also said that Hatch used the same premise to beat 18-year-veteran Frank Moses to get into the senate.
“When David took on Goliath all the betting odds were that David couldn’t do it,” Howell said. “[But] we can win this race because people want change.”
Because of a 23-year career as an executive at IBM and a proclaimed passion for technology, Howell said he is always interested in creating legislation to utilize technology to benefit of commerce and citizens.
In 1995, Howell proposed legislation to make electronic signatures on the Internet legally binding. He believes today’s technology will pale in comparison to future advancements made to enhance the quality of life.
Maybe more difficult than overcoming a seasoned U.S. Senate veteran is the task of convincing Utahns to look at campaign issues rather than solely the fact that Howell is a Democrat, Howell said.
His toughest job may consist in persuading hurried voters that selecting the candidate with the “R” following the name on the ballot is not a substitute for a researching the candidates.
“G.O.P. does not stand for God’s Only Party,” he said.
Although conservative on social issues such as abortion, he considers himself to be a moderate on issues ranging from healthcare reform to the commerce and the environment. Howell said there needs to be a balance between government intervention and complete privatization.
Howell attributes his democratic background to his grandfather, a democrat and farmer who lived in southern Utah.
“[My grandfather] was a real believer in people,” Howell said. “He cared more about people than anything else. He would say, ‘Scott, the most important thing you can do is serve people, and service is the key to success.'”
Paul Boehm, communication director for Howell and a recent graduate of BYU, said service and staying away from bi-partisan politics is what has made Howell’s stay in the Utah Senate successful.
“Scott feels the most important part of politics are people,” he said. “He’s not tied down to political pressures. He votes how he feels.”
Howell insists that the moderate views he has expressed on campaign issues are at the heart of his political goals to become a U.S. Senator.