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A Park City businesswoman has launched her campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, setting out an agenda that includes raising the minimum wage to $12 per hour, lowering interest rates on student loans and pressing state leaders to expand Medicaid.
Democrat Charlene Albarran said she's jumping into Utah's 2nd Congressional District race because she "could not just stand on the sidelines and watch our country go in an unfavorable direction any longer."
She doesn't live in the sprawling district that includes much of western Utah from Salt Lake City down to St. George, though that's not altogether unusual. Former Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, last served in the 4th Congressional District, though he lived in the 2nd. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, didn't live in the 3rd Congressional District until the Legislature redrew the lines after the 2010 Census.
She said she picked the 2nd District in consultation with leaders of the Utah Democratic Party.
"I can reach out to the Hispanic population, which is part of the sector who feel like they are unrepresented and I can reach out to many of the different progressive groups in Salt Lake," she said.
She opened her campaign office Monday and launched five billboards, four in the Salt Lake metro area and one in St. George.
To prime her campaign, Albarran has put up $50,000 of her own money, according to a report filed Sunday with the Federal Election Commission. Her first fundraiser will take place March 3 in Park City.
Her political involvement began a relatively short time ago. FEC reports show she made her first political contribution in July 2015 to Hillary Clinton's presidential race. She also donated $33,400 to the Democratic National Committee in November.
She moved to Utah in 2005.
Albarran grew up in Pocatello and, in 1975, won the Miss Idaho pageant. She received a math degree from Boise State University and worked for Idaho Power after spending four years as a model. She has lived in Mexico City with her husband, Roberto Albarran, for major portions of her life and is fluent in Spanish.
In Mexico, she served on the board of a few companies, including a Budget Rental Car franchise and Holdinmex, which had interests in the aviation industry. She has a pilot license and ran her own plane-rental company in Utah until 2014.
She faces an uphill battle in the conservative district, where Stewart bested state Sen. Luz Robles 61 percent to 33 percent. Stewart is seeking his third term in office and is a member of the House Appropriations and Intelligence committees.