Claudia Wright lost to Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, June 22 in the primary race to determine the Democratic Party’s nominee for the 2nd Congressional District. Wright’s campaign had only $30,000 in funding, compared to well over $1 million for Matheson, so she relied heavily on a passionate volunteer corps. City Weekly caught up to her after the primary and asked her about lessons learned from the campaign and her future plans.
Do you think you would have had more impact running as a third-party candidate?
When the [Citizens’ Candidate committee] asked me, I told them that I had never been an independent and don’t consider myself an independent. I’ve been a lifelong Democrat and that’s where I was comfortable running—even if the party wasn’t comfortable with me running.
You and your supporters took on a pretty daunting task by challenging the party establishment. What advice would you give to other people or groups who want to challenge the powers-that-be from the inside?
That’s the only way to change the party, from within the party. But even though we have party bylaws that say the party should be neutral, it did have an incumbent—who donates heavily to the party—so they made no effort to hide that favoritism. I expected that favoritism, but I didn’t expect the opposition we got. But I also found that many people within the party were more like me than [Matheson], ideologically, but they wanted to give him a pass because of the gerrymandered district.
After going through it as a candidate, what do you think of Utah’s system for choosing candidates?
I like the caucus system because it allows the private citizen to have a voice in the nominating process. In most states, party leaders go into a back room and decide who gets to run and who doesn’t, and if there happens to be two people who are good, there’s a primary. That really takes the private voter out of the nominating process. I would be willing to look at different systems, but would be opposed to anything that makes it less democratic.
Will you support Matheson in the fall? If not, who will you support?
If the choice is between Matheson and [Republican Morgan] Philpot, of course I will support Matheson.
Will you run for office again?
I am going to meet with the core people of this organization and talk about what we’re going to do next. We’re going to talk about immigration and the redistricting that is about to take place. I think you will see issues more than offices, but I’m not taking it off the table for the future.