Bill Barron doing what he loves to be best—campaigning in his own unique style.
Bill Barron is a carpenter by trade. He's by his own account "really shy," which what makes what he's doing—running for the U.S. Senate—seemingly contradictory. Politicians, after all, with very few exceptions, are all about the sound bite.
He's a single issue candidate, running unaffiliated to any party against incumbent Mike Lee (R) and Misty Snow (D), and his platform is simple: climate change. He wants your vote so he can show Washington D.C. that not only do people care about the warming climate, but they also support the idea of cutting down carbon emissions through what's known as a carbon-fee dividend, a proposal originated by the Citizens Climate Lobby. The idea is to increase the price on carbon emissions at their source and return the revenue equally to households.
This is the third time he's run and this time round he feels more comfortably actually talking about climate change to the people he meets on the road while crossing the state on a bike. First time round in 2012, "I had to be careful about saying words like 'climate change,'" he says. "It wasn't well received. I had to communicate about it in a round-about way, tying in the need to clean up our air, improve our water quality, and then bring in climate change." Now when he talks about it, he gets far more recognition of the need to address it. "This dynamic has definitely changed in my opinion."
In 2012 he ran against Senator Orrin Hatch and after crossing the state on his bike, got .7 percent of the vote, which amounted to a sturdy 7,000 votes. "I learned it's real important to use your voice running against Sen. Hatch. I knew if I didn't run, then we wouldn't talk about climate change in the campaign season and I didn't think that was right."
His campaigning is about making a statement through the very act of "going out there and traveling the state. Its a way for me to express myself, to put my heart out there."
Since media typically don't cover third-party candidates, by riding his bike across Utah and holding meetings at local libraries and other suitable locations he finds en route, Barron thinks he can develop grassroots support.
In 2014, he ran for the Second District seat, riding 650 miles in nine days, starting out in Salt Lake City, then riding to Tooele, down to Milford, through St George, Zion, to Kanab, Bryce and finishing at Capitol Reef. The stop was symbolic, he says, to show his believe that Washington D.C., was utterly stuck in polarization, much as a ship wrecks itself on a coral reef.
In that race he got 1.5 percent of the vote, amounting to 1,800 votes.
Now he's crossing the state for the second time, this time riding from the top of Utah to the bottom. He started at the beginning of September and plans to finish on Sept. 21, at Utah's lowest point, the Utah Beaver dam wash, on the Utah-Arizona borderline.
His route will take him through fuel-extraction-industry heavy landscapes, such as Duchesne and Price. But he's not worried, citing two polls that have come out in the last month where he was at 6 percent. He's shooting for 10 percent. "There's proven results from hitting that bench mark," he says, citing how on the first Earth Day in 1970, at a time when media reports were highlighting rivers on fire from pollution, 10 percent of the population came out to protest, resulting in significant legislative environmental initiatives during the Republican-led U.S. Congress.
His candidacy puts creativity first. He wants people to join him in his ride and hopes daily blogs
, Facebook postings
and his website will encourage involvement. "My idea is to try to get people connecting to this guy who just feels compelled to take a stand for what he believes the country should be doing."
Along with being endorsed by Momentum Recycling and Xeriscape Design, Barron also counts on the support of Salt Lake City councilwoman Erin Mendenhall. She describes Barron as "a relentless advocate for prioritizing climate change," who is an encyclopedia on climate scientific knowledge and climate policy strategy. He's committed "a good deal of his life to inserting global warming into the political dialog through the electoral process," she says. "He gives like-minded voters a paddle in the sea of Republican-dominated Utah federal elections." Without Barron's efforts, Mendenhall argues, climate change "would be without mention or concern in these elections."
As much as Barron is seeking to elevate the profile of climate change and encourage debate and support for the carbon fee dividend proposal, he's also about giving a voice to those who have no voice in the political system. He gets a tingle, he says, thinking about the area between Escalante and Boulder, dropping down into a canyon there and catching the sunrise. "I want to be that voice for nature," he says, mentioning moments when he's seen hawks fly overhead or deer in places where you wouldn't expect them due to the warming climate. "I'd be overwhelmed with emotion. Here are these creatures that don't have a voice and their lives are being changed."
In the beautiful long light of early morning or evening, his thoughts coalesce around taking that stand "for life that doesn't have a voice and should. We should be that voice for them."