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Is the polygamous Kingston family trying to get a foothold in the Utah Legislature?

Two Republican candidates for the Utah House who have deep ties to the Kingston clan say voters have nothing to worry about. They say they will be dedicated lawmakers independent of any family influence and work for the best interest of their constituents.

Two other candidates associated with the Kingstons filed as Republican challengers for the Legislature. But one withdrew before the Salt Lake County Republican Convention last spring and the other was eliminated at the convention.

Margrethe Peterson, the Republican candidate for House District 37 in Holladay, is challenging Democratic incumbent Carol Spackman Moss. Peterson confirmed she is related to the wide-reaching Kingston family by marriage, that some of her children are married to Kingstons and that she is a longtime employee of Standard Restaurant Equipment, which is part of the vast Kingston business empire.

"Yes, I have children married to Kingstons and I also have some wonderful grandchildren," she said in an e-mail in response to my questions. "I have worked at Standard Restaurant Equipment for many years where I have built a good reputation for myself with customers and co-workers alike."

She added that, "In the event I should be elected, I will represent my community and their views and speak for the people I represent. I am running as a Republican to serve my district and my community because I believe in the values the Republican Party represents, which are values I have for myself as well. I have worked hard to gain a good reputation, and I'm sure the people I have associated with would agree with me in this. I care about this country, this state and the people in my district, which is why I'm running for office. I'm not running for money or political gain."

Nephi Robinson, Republican candidate for Salt Lake City's House District 24 against Democrat Rebecca Chavez-Houck, is the son of John Daniel Kingston, who was in the news in the late 1990s after he was charged with beating his teenage daughter for running away from an arranged marriage to his brother, David Kingston.

Robinson also works for A-1 Disposal, another business in the Kingston chain.

"My constituents can be confident that I will be transparent with them and involve them in the decision making process," Robinson responded in an e-mail. "My family affiliation won't affect my judgment. I am a sixth-generation Utahn and a proud father of three. I am working hard to be a good provider and live the American Dream the way our founding fathers had intended. I know there are a lot of people who share that same ambition."

He added that, "Our freedoms are being threatened because there aren't enough of us taking political action. I feel like I relate to the people in my district and if I didn't think I could represent my constituents then I wouldn't be running."

Dissidents who have left the Kingston clan, whose leaders are said to have dozens of wives, say the family exists in a tightly-controlled atmosphere, which is why questions about the candidates' ability to be independent arose.

Eric Freeman, son of Carl Kingston, one of the clan's business leaders, filed to run in West Valley City's House District 29 against Democratic incumbent Janice Fisher, but he was defeated in the convention.

Dana Jenkins, Carl Kingston's nephew, filed to run against Democrat Pat Jones in Holladay's Senate District 4, but he withdrew before the convention.