Why won’t Kathie Allen tell anyone she’s a Democrat?

If you were watching the BYU vs. LSU game on Saturday night, you probably saw an ad from Democratic Congressional candidate Kathie Allen about 150 times.

Because you’re an avid reader of UtahPolicy.com, you’re savvy enough to know Allen is a Democrat. But, the casual viewer may not know she’s a Democrat. Why? Her ad never mentions her party affiliation. It has a generic reference to “Democrats” as part of an overall focus on health care, but she never reveals her party affiliation.

Same goes for her website. The entire online platform is bereft of any mention that she’s the Democratic candidate. There’s still mention of former Rep. Jason Chaffetz on the home page, but nothing about the Democrats. Same thing with her Facebook page and her Twitter.

(Her website also highlights a dig at former Rep. Jason Chaffetz on the home page, which suggests she may be hoping that voters who aren’t paying a lot of attention think Chaffetz is still in the race, but that’s a subject for another column.)


It’s obvious Allen is sprinting away from the Democratic party as fast as her political legs can carry her.

It’s a savvy move by Allen to hide from the Democratic party. She’s running in the 16th-most Republican district in the nation where the GOP nominee has won the seat by 40+ points the last three elections. This is a district that is virtually unwinnable by the Democratic Party.

So, Allen has decided not to run as a Democrat. 

There’s a precedent for this kind of political maneuver in Utah. Jim Matheson did it brilliantly. He eschewed his party label and staked out a center-right political identity which got him elected time after time.

Not a bad political blueprint to follow. 

But, there’s one big difference between Matheson and Allen. Allen is an unabashed progressive who is a proponent of single-payer health care. She’s also joined at the hip politically with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who, it’s not a stretch to say, is out of touch politically with Utah’s 3rd District. 

On the other hand, Matheson was routinely chided by the Democratic Party base as a DINO (Democrat in name only), and once was sent to a primary by a challenger from his political left. 

Allen is hardly cut from the same political mold as Matheson. It’s fascinating that she’s trying to use his campaign game plan.

There are risks and rewards for Allen’s decision to hide her political affiliation, for sure. If she can successfully obfuscate her Democratic affiliation from the voters in the 3rd District, she will have a better chance of beating Provo Mayor John Curtis, the GOP nominee. But, she is opening herself up to attacks from the right that could bring her honesty into question.

When I asked about Allen’s political slight-of-hand, a campaign spokesperson responded saying, “Our view is that this is a polarized climate, and the only important message is that Dr. Allen will work to bring truth and accountability back to Washington.”

When pushed about the lack of any sort of mention that Allen is a Democrat anywhere, the same campaign spokesperson replied, “We’re certainly not trying to hide from that fact. We just feel it’s the least important thing to talk about.”

“Least important thing to talk about” is just political speak for “We know Democrats get crushed in the 3rd District, so we’re not going to tell anyone Dr. Allen is a Democrat and hope nobody asks about it.”

Of course, Allen’s campaign is trying to hide her status as a Democrat. If the Democratic brand weren’t absolute political poison in that part of Utah, she would at least have a passing mention of it somewhere. 

Despite the hide and seek about Allen’s political affiliation, Getting those ads on TV now is a solid political move. Allen’s campaign is trying to set the narrative and introduce her to voters in the 3rd District, while conveniently avoiding the dreaded “D” word.

It’s obvious Allen wants to make this election about health care, which is her bailiwick. It’s not a bad idea, trying to push the fight battlefield of her choosing since he’s not as experienced in this area. If she tries to compete with Curtis on tax policy or his record running Provo, she loses. Healthcare is the only area where she has an advantage.

The TV ads take another effective weapon away from Curtis. Many political campaigns are lost if your opponent can define you before you get a chance to define yourself. Allen has raced to the front of the pack painting herself as a middle-of-the-road politician who is not beholden to party labels. Curtis’s campaign wants to paint her as an “out of touch liberal,” but that’s going to be more difficult now that she’s already started to make her case to voters.

Will that strategy work? It’s clearly different from what we’ve seen in past campaigns. It’s at least worth a shot.