Sophia Hawes-Tingey, Candidate for Midvale City Mayor

Sophia is running as candidate from the Democratic Party. Sophia Hawes-Tingey is a software engineer and US Navy Veteran who moved to Utah in 2010, hoping to work in a discrimination-free zone for a company that valued diversity in order to send money back to her daughters living in Texas, during a time when the economy went flat in the Lone Star State. She has been an LGBT advocate since then, as well as having worked in charge of welcoming for two Unitarian Universalist churches.

Hillary Koellner- “Sophia, what was it that sparked your interest in politics?”

Sophia Hawes- “Essentially my entities in politics go back to 2013 and beginning of 2014 when we started seeing the promise of “full equality” not full equality, but protection of housing. My wife and I were able to legally get married in December. Then I saw the new Attorney General saying he was going to fight all of these marriages. At that point i started to send letters to people, kind of like citizen lobbying. Then shared it on Facebook and many said, I like that, make it go viral. So i ran a petition, I got some people to help me, I got 32 thousand signatures from it. People were writing really good reasons on why they didn’t want Utah to fight same sex marriage. It was a very humbling experience, these people expecting me to stand up for them. Then just seeing the transphobia that was occurring. When I was invited by Senator Dabakis to watch bills that were being presented and I watched good things for the people of Utah just get killed and they were focusing all of their attention on the LGBT limitations. I realized two things, the transgender community was always going to be under attack if there was no representation and two, by having a transgender person that was working together with other legislators for good bills for the people of Utah, it would destroy some of the narratives.”

Hillary Koellner- “Well you’ve definitely been quite involved politically as a constituent and activist, but what was it that made you say, ‘I’m running for office’ and brought you here today?”

Sophia Hawes- “My actual first time running was when I ran for the Utah legislature in 2013, my intent was to get to know the process and the people and then run. My representatives weren’t responding to me, this is not how I expect my local government to be. My Representative wasn’t running again in 2013 and I was just planning to be a delegate, but I took that opportunity. A lot of the times you find out that they vote for people they already know. They want to feel like they know you first.”

Hillary Koellner- “So, you didn’t move to Utah until 2010, where did you grow up and what was it that brought you to Utah?”

Sophia Hawes- “I was part of the military branch; my father was in the air force. I was born in Maine, I don’t remember anything of it because I was so young, but not too long after I was born we went to New Mexico, then to MPK while he went to serve in Vietnam, then we flew out to Germany to meet my father for the next 4 years. I went to school there, then 4 years in Michigan, then to Texas where a lot of our family and ancestors were. Then I stayed there until I served 4 years in the navy, then I found a job in Kentucky where I transitioned. Then when I went on linked in and changed my status to represent who I am and I found a job at overstock.com and I found out how Salt Lake County was the safest place in the country.”

Hillary Koellner- “Oh wow, you sure moved a lot while you were growing up! May I ask why you decided to work for Overstock?”

Sophia Hawes- “Before I moved researched the company and found out it had good forward thinking and a lot of diversity protection, and the entire county gave me a sense of release. I’ve been in Utah since 2010. While I felt safe in Salt Lake County, I didn’t feel safe in Utah County or other places in the state from being fired from my job just because of who i am.”

Hillary Koellner- “Now, when we spoke on the phone to schedule this interview, you mentioned how most media will not actually share your point of views on the issues, and tend to focus on your personal transition. Why do you think this is?”

Sophia Hawes- “The media likes to sell news, the way they sell is if they can identify anything that’s unique, a transgender candidate, that for them is a way they can get more views. Yet, the reason I’m running is not because I’m transgender, but because I want to represent my entire community. It should be that people should be respected no matter who they are. My message is about supporting community and embracing all diversity, and that people in office should listen to their community. I feel too many times it’s one or two who get the power over a legislator rather than the entire community and I’m running based on feedback from hundreds in the community.”

Hillary Koellner- “And based on the reasons you’re running, what is your vision for Midvale City?”

Sophia Hawes- “My vision is fixing social issues such as homelessness, human trafficking, and that we meet the needs of those coming into the city and of those who live in the city.

We have the old part of Midvale where not too much attention has been given, I have the vision of an equivalent of the 9th and 9th in Salt Lake City. I find Midvale to be home, not because of the development, but because the people are incredibly diverse, welcoming, outspoken and protective. I can’t think of anything better than to protect them. So, if It boils down for one word for me, that’s community.”

Hillary Koellner- ”How would you say that growing up in a military family affects your views of our world today?”

Sophia Hawes- “I was fortunate to have a family that is very patriotic, and also to have a spouse who is understanding and seeking out to understand. My father did a lot of research in Germany, and my family was one of humble service and learning from other people who would invite us into our homes and would teach us. Since the age of two I was trying to learn different languages, and it taught me a lot of respect for different cultures. I learned the sense of patriotism that is about hospitality, welcoming and protecting those amongst us; that we are willing to welcome more people. What I really got out of it was this really amazing diversity of life and cultures. Why would anyone try to melt everything into one pot when there is so much beauty in the diversity of our cultures?”

Hillary Koellner- “You described how much your family moved, would you say that helped you learn how to create connections with people faster or maybe even quite the opposite?”

Sophia Hawes- “Every four years I moved, so i didn’t have life long friendships. You develop a skill of being able to make friends, it was hard at first, but after a while you learn not to be so rigorously centered in your past, even though you don’t know anything about it. That skill was actually very useful entering political service, I’m able to go and have conversations with constituents and getting to know them. I feel very comfortable sitting down and getting to business. It taught me how to connect more easily.”

Hillary Koellner- “Speaking of connections and conversations, what has your experience been like on Social Media during a political campaign? Have you encountered any of the hatred comments and if so, how have you handled them?”

Sophia Hawes- “I’ve had varying experiences and varying reactions. Social media used to be a place where I could have a support infrastructure. Now I have people who come on and come directly to put something very negative or non-supporting, it can be traumatizing. Fortunately, I started getting emails of the support groups, of the other side I’ve connected with and they would sometimes come to my defense. I’ve decided I don’t have to accept everyone who has a negative attack on me. By me being open and informative it has helped me bring along support from those who have had difficulties and understand me. Which has taught me to also be emotionally supportive. Every so often I’ll see someone who adds me and posts things against me, and I ask myself, why would they want to friend me? So, they can follow me, but I don’t want to see their negative comments. I haven’t had lots of threats or hate messages compared to other people in the public eye, and I feel grateful. Maybe if they follow me, I can say something where they can learn from me.”

Hillary Koellner- “Wow, that’s a great outlook. Now, to finalize the interview, as I ask just about every candidate I talk to, what is the one thing that you would say everyone should know about you? Especially if they haven’t heard of you before?”

Sophia Hawes- “For me I guess I have learned that in life, it’s actually a series of transitions for me. We don’t want to be stuck in our comfort zone all the time, because if we don’t grow, we don’t learn and we can’t be spiritually connected with other people as we can be. And although it may be scary to step out of the comfort zone, there is so much more living that you can do when you take that step.”

Hillary Koellner- “That’s a very powerful message, thank you for sharing it!”

For more information on Sophia’s story or her stance on different issues you may visit www.SophiaHawes.vote

By Hillary Koellner

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