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Utah politician leaps from a razor-thin loss to a landslide win

Two years ago, when Dr. Suzanne Harrison ran for a seat in Utah’s House for the first time, she lost by three votes. But in this year’s midterms, she beat out her opponent by nearly 2,000 votes. Harrison joins Hari Sreenivasan to talk about her campaign in a community where people knew from experience that every vote does matter.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    There's been a lot of discussion about the rising number of women elected into office at both the national and local levels. Two years ago we profiled Dr. Suzanne Harrison of Utah who at the time was a first time candidate running for a seat in Utah's House of Representatives. She fell short in that election losing her bid for House District 32 by just 3 votes. This past Tuesday the anesthesiologist joined the growing number of women elected into office defeating her opponent by nearly 2000 votes. Suzanne Harrison joins me now from Utah. How did this wave that we're seeing whether it's a blue wave whether it's the women's wave whether it's the veterans Wave How did that all converge in a race like yours in Utah?

  • SUZANNE HARRISON:

    You know I was honored to be one of many a record breaking numbers of women running for office both locally and nationally. And I do feel that my experience as a mom and as a medical doctor and a parent of children in our local public schools will be an asset as I serve in the legislature. But ultimately I don't think people voted for me because of my gender. I think they voted for me because I did the work of going door to door and listening to voters rather than lecturing them and really finding common ground and focusing on the issues that we share as a community and bringing those issues to the forefront of the Utah legislature.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    You know finding common ground is something that's pretty hard to do especially on the Washington front. In your legislature, perhaps it's a little different, but how do you find those connections between people of different ideologies and backgrounds?

  • SUZANNE HARRISON:

    I think the first and foremost it starts with listening. We knocked on over 30000 doors in a district that only has 10000 homes. And we spent time on the doorstep listening to voters. Thousands of voters were face to face contact and I think we all did more listening rather than lecturing each other and name calling. We would come to a more common sense solutions in this country and here locally as well.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Was there a greater amount of participation and energy in the races where you were?

  • SUZANNE HARRISON:

    Absolutely. There were several ballot initiatives. That was a new issue for Utah and there was greater voter participation because of those ballot initiatives that the voters could comment on. And in my local race people were much more engaged because they had seen how much their vote can really matter. We lost by three votes last time out of almost 18000 votes in a race against a long term incumbent and people who had thought their vote didn't counter it wouldn't matter really got engaged this time. I was so happy to have people on my team that had never been involved in local politics.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    There are a lot of experts who talk about how politics is not just local but it's also become very national and that the national themes end up filtering down when you knocked on doors did people start to ask you on your affiliation your party affiliation and where you stood on national issues?

  • SUZANNE HARRISON:

    That came up. But I find that sometimes the national issues create more of a wedge between us then then really needs to be. I think if we take that time to listen and talk to people of different ideologies and different backgrounds we all share so much more in common than what divides us. And in my community people want a great teacher in every classroom. People want to be able to go outside and breathe safe air and they want to be able to have great jobs for their kids and their future grandkids. And these are not partisan issues or at least they shouldn't be. We need people to come together and find common sense solutions.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right.Suzanne Harrison of Utah thanks so much.

  • SUZANNE HARRISON:

    Thanks for having me. Hari.

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