Joe Andrade's ambition for his independent candidacy for Utah's second Congressional District seat—which he announced on July 4, a day "for personal independence and responsibility," he noted in his press release—is simple. "I want to demonstrate one can run without huge amounts of money," he says.
Andrade is a familiar face amid the downtown science community. On July 1, the 71 year old retired after 43 years as professor of engineering and pharmacy at the University of Utah.
He was an early player in the 1990s in the development of what became the Leonardo museum, and ran its precursor, the Utah Science Center, for many years until it merged with the museum in 2009.
Andrade has called his campaign "the impossible quest," "my Jose Quixote campaign."
He and his wife have "grudgingly," he says dryly, stumped up the $5,000 for the campaign and are taking no donations. "People are intrigued, they're curious, interested. I had to turn down donations, checks, and I wish I didn't have to," he adds on the phone from Zion National Park, where he was shortly meeting with park superintendents.
Beyond the pointed critique of how donations warp politics, Andrade has a series of platform positions he wants to air. "I hope to change the conversation [on politics], to initiate and catalyze some conversation and dialogue that most people are very scared to address."
You can read more about his campaign here.
Rather than the platitudes he says most politicians engage in, he wants to set people straight on the issues with some hard facts.
For the past three months, he's been swinging through some of the huge 2nd Congressional District, including parts of rural Utah, to learn about, among other things, the Great Basin and Snake Valley water issues. "I learned the magnitude of the request [by the Southern Nevada Water Authority for pumping aquifers that feed into Utah], the concern of people living in the valleys, of the springs drying up, of potential dust bowls evolving."
He also wanted to inform himself about Utah's federal lands. He complains that no conversation is taking place regarding solar, geothermal and wind-resource development. "No one is talking about that. It's part of the conversation I want to get going in rural Utah. You have an enormous resource in the dry western district; nobody's helping that at the state level."
He was down in Zion to look at issues relating to the money tourism puts into Utah's economy—Bryce had 1.3 million visitors last year, Zion 2.7 million. He says it's an area that does not get aired in the public debates about federal lands.
"We've got our heads buried in the oil shale [debate] and we're ignoring the real resource of federal lands as places for recreation and tourism."
He's optimistic that his efforts are having a positive impact. "People are listening, opening up a little bit. I've been teaching long enough to know you've got to hear it and process it multiple times before it takes."