An exclusive profile of Tom Taylor, a robotics engineer running for the United States House of Representatives in Utah's 4th congressional district.
In 2014, Utah tied for the third-lowest voter turnout in the entire country, with only 28.8% of eligible voters casting ballots. In Utah’s 4th congressional district, Republican Mia Love defeated Democrat Doug Owens by five points in a five-way race. Unluckily for Owens, Democratic voters tend to turnout in far fewer numbers than Republicans in midterm elections. He never really stood a chance.
Tom Taylor, a robotics engineer who grew up in Utah’s 4th congressional district, wants to change that in 2018.
Tom went through Utah’s public school system, where he was inspired by his math and physics teachers to major in mechanical engineering at the University of Utah, specializing in robotics.
He graduated with his bachelor’s of science right when the economy collapsed, bringing about the Great Recession that devastated working- and middle-class Americans across the nation. “There we no jobs available for me,” he said. “There have been a lot of people who have found themselves in this situation, where through no fault of their own, the economy has changed, and it’s producing what I fear is going to be a lost generation. We can’t get jobs or raises at a crucial time in our lives.”
The financial collapse not only pushed Tom to go to graduate school; it also pushed him to get involved in politics. He was disgusted by the fact that Wall Street criminals were not punished for their crimes. “What that basically says is that if you do something fraudulent and you get caught, you worst repercussion might be some sort of fine, and if that fine is less than the money you made engaging in the fraud, it just becomes a cost of doing business.”
Though Democrats like Elizabeth Warren attempted to reign in Wall Street, their efforts were blocked by the corporate politicians who dominate Washington. “We’re at a position where this can really come back to bite us again. We can have another financial collapse. We haven’t put the safeguards in place to prevent something like this.”
In response to Congress’ inaction regarding Wall Street fraud and abuse, Tom started what many liberals have started doing under Donald Trump’s illegitimate presidency: calling their representatives, writing them letters, and volunteering for progressive campaigns.
“Around 2011 was when things started to get really concerning for me. In 2011, Republicans in Congress were threatening to blow past the debt ceiling and not raise it. It’s like building up your credit card bill and refusing to pay it. When you make this a bargaining chip, whether you’re going to raise the debt ceiling or not, be faithful to our country’s debt obligation, the question becomes… that’s incredibly worrisome, because it will have huge, lasting effects on the United States, and legislators should pay a political price for this.”
2016 was the last straw for Tom. He further witnessed political norms eroding with the Republican’s nine month refusal to fill late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat for purely partisan reasons. And then came Donald Trump, a man seemingly dedicated to destroying the norms that uphold our democracy. “I remember the day after the election, going into my office,” Tom recalled. “I sat down at my desk and I just thought to myself, ‘what am I doing with my life?’ It’s not that I don’t enjoy the engineering, because I do, but we’re at a unique position, a point in the history of our country where we need to do something more than just our regular day-to-day lives.”
And with that, Tom decided that he would run for Congress. ““It’s an uphill fight,” he said. He knows that it will take a lot to combat the fundraising power of the GOP, especially as a political outsider in a red district. However, he hopes to capture the grassroots momentum generated by the Trump Resistance through a progressive campaign that offers real solutions that will help the average Utahn.
Tom’s top issues are Medicare for All, fighting income inequality, ending gerrymandering, protecting the environment, boosting education, and reforming the campaign finance system. He aims to fundamentally change the way politics works in our country by fostering a more democratic system. Utahns have been denied a truly democratic voting system in recent years due to gerrymandering, with Democrats holding zero federal seats regardless of the percentage of the popular vote they win statewide. “The people in Washington are choosing their voters rather than having the voters choose the people in Washington. It’s completely broken and there needs to be something done about it.”
Healthcare in particular is an issue close to Tom’s heart. “There was a time when my wife got a tumor, and we were worried that she was going to have have cancer. I remember sitting there thinking that not only am I facing a crisis where my wife might pass away from cancer, but I also need to worry about paying for the bills. And it shouldn’t be that way.”
Fortunately, the tumor was benign, so Tom and his wife are currently raising a daughter in Millcreek, a subsection of Salt Lake City. But nothing can erase the terror and uncertainty Tom felt when his wife discovered she had a tumor. “Basically what that does is it gets us more aligned with all the other industrialized nations, where we guarantee healthcare for everyone, guarantee everyone has access to it, and we save money in things like administrative fees… Going to a Medicare for All platform allows us to do the humane thing as well as the cost-effective thing.”
Tom believes that his background in science and engineering is an asset to his campaign. “We don’t have enough scientists and engineers up on the Hill,” he explained. “What happens is there are situations that come up that have real technical solutions to them, whether they’re involved in STEM or cybersecurity or net neutrality. There are real solutions to these problems, and we don’t have enough people in Washington who understand what these problems really are.”
This is especially the case when it comes to climate change, Tom says. “Instead of having a debate over what we’re going to do about climate change, we’re having a debate over whether it’s real or not.” Tom wants to guarantee that climate policy not only combats the impending environmental disasters brought on by climate change, but also benefits working class Americans who can gain steady employment from the jobs created by expanding renewable energy.
Though Hillary Clinton only received 27.5% of the vote in Utah, Tom actually thinks that it is the perfect place for him to run. His Mormonism is a big part of this. He says that people often wonder how a Mormon could be a Democrat, to which he responds: “I am a Democrat because I’m a Mormon. It’s because I’ve been taught that we should have love and compassion for the poor and the needy, that we should give people a lift up and help them to become their best selves.”
Tom says that his progressive policies actually have a significant appeal to Mormon voters, who are very family-oriented. He says that they care very much about the environment and healthcare, as these issues will directly affect the quality of life for their children. “The demographics of this nation and the things that people want just happen to align with a progressive agenda like this.”
Tom isn’t the only Democrat who believes that this district is flippable. Swing Left, an organization created to turn the House of Representatives blue in 2018 by targeting swing districts, considers Utah’s 4th a top priority. And replacing incumbent Republican Mia Love may not be as difficult as it sounds.
Donald Trump is quite unpopular in Utah. Though he won the state, he received a greater percentage of the vote in New Hampshire, a state won by Hillary Clinton. 45.5% of the Utah vote isn’t exactly an enthusiastic endorsement. And a May 18 Dan Jones & Associates poll found that an even smaller percentage of Utahns approve of Trump’s performance as president. Sad!
This isn’t a good sign for Mia Love. So far, according to FiveThirtyEight, Rep. Love has voted in line with Donald Trump 96.7% of the time. Love’s most damaging vote is likely the one she cast for the American Health Care Act, the GOP’s wildly unpopular tax cut to the wealthy disguised as a healthcare bill. “This is not a time to play regular, partisan politics,” Tom said. “We need true patriots to stand up in Congress and do something about this.”
Tom is ready to be a bold, active leader who stands up to Donald Trump and the congressional Republicans enabling him. Tom intends to help the investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia in the 2016 election, a serious allegation that Tom says should “concern every person in this country that believes in democracy.”
Tom also plans on standing up to the Trump administration’s attempts to further oppress marginalized Americans. “Here in Utah, when we hear stuff like this Muslim ban or building a wall, it frightens a lot of members of the church because it harkens back to this time where the government was enacting laws that would disenfranchise and hurt [Mormons]. That’s near and dear to my heart, that marginalized groups are protected.”
Unfortunately, despite Tom’s integrity and determination, there is still the issue of money. In 2016, the Mia Love campaign spent $5,480,895, well over twice as much as Democrat Doug Owens’. Tom, however, is not discouraged at the moment. “One thing that gives me hope is that Bernie Sanders ran on a campaign that allowed for large amounts of grassroots organizing and donations. Basically, he crowdfunded his campaign, and this is the way that progressives and Democrats need to move forward in the near future to help fight against the amount of money that comes from the Republican side. Right now, I’m focusing my efforts on trying to get small donations from as many people as possible.”
You can help Tom’s campaign by donating, volunteering, and following him on Twitter.
“We’re at a defining moment in our political history. The walls of our government are on fire, and because of that, I want to run and do something about it.”
Jordan is the Head Writer at Millennial Politics. She is also an activist, cinephile, and proud queer woman of color.
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