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McDonald talks health care in 4th Congressional District race

By Kelcie Hartley - | Jul 16, 2022

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

Darlene McDonald sits for an interview at the Daily Herald office on Friday, July 15, 2022. McDonald is the Democratic nominee for Utah's 4th Congressional District.

Darlene McDonald moved to Utah in 2002 with a dream and a desire to provide a better life for her children.

“When I got off the plane and saw the mountains, I was hooked. I was hooked. I was like, ‘This is the place,'” McDonald said.

As the Democratic candidate running in 4th Congressional District race against incumbent Rep. Burgess Owens, McDonald wants to be a voice for all, including people of color.

McDonald acknowledged that living in Utah isn’t the easiest for many people of color. She’s known many who either were raised here or moved here and have left. Utah’s population is approximately 90% white, 3% Asian and 1.5% Native American and African American, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“I got lucky,” McDonald said. “I got really lucky. I happened to move into a fabulous community. … That’s not everyone’s experience. I have some African American friends who got here and didn’t see representation and couldn’t build that community, so they left.”

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

Darlene McDonald sits for an interview at the Daily Herald office on Friday, July 15, 2022. McDonald is the Democratic nominee for Utah's 4th Congressional District.

This isn’t McDonald’s first time as a candidate for the 4th District. In 2018, she lost at the state Democratic convention to Ben McAdams, then the mayor of Salt Lake County, for the party’s nomination. McAdams won the 2018 race before, ultimately, being defeated by Owens in 2020.

Thanks to that experience, McDonald has a new understanding of what representation is.

“If you’re representing the district, you have to do so for everyone,” she said. “That means your core supporters aren’t going to get everything they want, and they aren’t supposed to. That’s not compromise. That’s not sitting at the table and hashing out the best deal for everyone, and that’s what representation is.”

McDonald argues there is no representation at all from Owens, especially for the African American community. Both McDonald and Owens are Black.

On Friday,  the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York, reopened two months since the shooting that killed 10 African American shoppers. According to ABC News, the shooter was Peyton Gendron, a white male who was charged with hate crimes.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

Darlene McDonald sits for an interview at the Daily Herald office on Friday, July 15, 2022. McDonald is the Democratic nominee for Utah's 4th Congressional District.

“They are reopening the Tops Grocery store, and [Owens] has yet to say one word about that,” McDonald said. “It’s not ok because he was one of the people pushing at the great replacement theory. There’s an accountability here and you’re putting people’s lives in jeopardy. It’s real and it has to stop. He needs to be held accountable and called out.”

McDonald’s campaign page addresses that the 4th District is one of the most gerrymandered districts in the nation, having taken on a larger portion of central Utah and south Utah County after legislative redistricting.

“When things are gerrymandered this way, where the representative feels so protected, they aren’t representing you either,” she said. “Burgess Owens, and yes, I’m calling him out by name, didn’t even debate in the primary because he didn’t have to. That shouldn’t be ok. Republicans shouldn’t be ok with that.”

Education, health care and women’s maternal care are a few of McDonald’s top priorities.

McDonald hopes to tackle bullying in schools, specifically racially-motivated bullying.

“For the kids to know they aren’t alone, and someone has their back is so important … especially after the death of Izzy Tichenor,” she said. “We can’t lose any more of our children. We need to let them know that there are people who have their backs — will listen to and care about them.”

Addressing health care issues was the first issue that made McDonald want to run for Congress.

Before coming to Utah, McDonald gave birth to twins. One of them died at the age of three from severe health complications.

“You have to understand, at the time I was a healthy 22-year-old who should have had a normal pregnancy, but that didn’t happen. I had to quickly navigate Medicaid and all the insurance issues very quickly. Marcus was a very happy baby, but what sustained us was the services he got. He needed a lot of care,” she said.

McDonald explained that the threatening of Medicaid and the Affordable Cares Act during President Donald Trump’s administration was the turning point for her, that she could no longer sit “on the sidelines.”

She views maternity health as a separate issue, but one that needs to be addressed. According to the CDC, the maternal mortality rates for African American women were 2.9 times greater than of Caucasian women in 2020.

“We spend more on health care than any other nation, and without better benefits. African and Hispanic women are three to four times likely to die during or immediately after childbirth. Racial disparity, racism, not listening to the mother and not having an advocate with them when they go to a hospital has a lot to do with that.”

To increase better health outcomes, McDonald would provide funding for doulas and midwives, to give people more advocates during pregnancies.

In the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Sen. Mike Lee and independent Evan McMullin, McDonald said she would have preferred there was a democratic candidate to support — but told the Daily Herald her vote will be for McMullin and encouraged others to do the same.

“It’s not ok what Mike Lee did,” McDonald said. “I don’t have an issue with Evan McMullin. Would I have preferred a Democrat that had a real shot in running? Of course, I’m a Democrat. Evan McMullin is 100% correct. Mike Lee can’t be trusted to preserve and protect American Democracy because he tried to offend it.”

McDonald, Owens and United Utah Party nominee January Walker will be on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot.


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