It’s been 10 years since the late Utah House Representative Rosalind “Roz” McGee, Dem., stepped down and Rep. Brian King, Dem., was elected to represent Utah’s House District 28, which takes in areas of the eastern Salt Lake Valley and Parley’s Canyon, to areas of Summit County and Park City. Having held the position since 2008, Rep. King has been a staunch Democrat face in Utah politics for more than a decade serving as House Minority Leader since 2014. He is currently reading Joseph Campbell’s work, “The Power of Myth”, and practicing at his law firm preparing for the 2020 legislative session. Recently, Michael Brownstein, a new writer for Candidates.vote, got to sit down and talk with Rep. King.
Candidates.vote: What ended up inspiring you to get your start in politics?
Rep. Brian King: My parents were both active and interested in politics. I am the youngest of five boys and we would talk about current events and politics around the dinner table. I thought every family did that! So I have always followed politics closely and thought about those kinds of issues a lot. And then when our representative in the area, Roz McGee, decided to retire, I thought that if I didn’t throw my hat into the ring at that point I might never have as good an opportunity going forward. So I decided to run for office.
Candidates.vote: How do you balance your politics and personal life?
Rep. Brian King: It’s not easy. I love my political work and I love the work I do for my clients in the law practice. So I don’t regret the large amounts of time I spend on both those things. But it is also true that I don’t have a lot of time for hobbies, watching TV or movies, or travel for fun. I count myself lucky that I enjoy the legislative work and my law practice work as much as I do. But it is pretty much like having two full-time jobs!
Candidates.vote: What book are you currently working on reading, and what’s the best part of it?
Rep. Brian King: About the book I am reading? I have a number of books I’m working on. But the one that is probably the most interesting is “The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers. It’s basically a transcript of a series of interviews Bill Moyers, a TV journalist and former Presidential advisor, carried out with Joseph Campbell, a well-known humanities professor. They talk about what makes life meaningful for each of us and what we do to try and finding meaning in our day to day existence. It’s thought provoking stuff. Makes me explore some of the bigger questions in my life. And that is good for my soul.
Candidates.vote: What would you consider your greatest failure, and on the flipside, your greatest success?
Rep. Brian King: My greatest failure is a tie between — didn’t learn to ski when I was young; and didn’t try out for my high school baseball team… even though I love baseball.
My greatest success is overcoming some native inclinations to be pretty lazy and self-absorbed. I’m still not particularly hard working or altruistic. But I think I’ve made some good progress in those areas.
Candidates.vote: Did you learn to ski later in life?
Rep. Brian King: Not really. I’ve been skiing two or three times but I’m not good. I know I could learn now, but I have no desire to take the time to do it.
Candidates.vote: What was the most valuable lesson your parents taught you?
Rep. Brian King: I had remarkably good, exemplary parents. Really high quality human beings, both of them. They taught me to love learning and to be intellectually curious. They taught me to think for myself and not to just follow those in positions of power or authority.
Candidates.vote: What’s your all-time favorite movie?
Rep. Brian King: The Shawshank Redemption.
Candidates.vote: When you’re feeling down, what comfort food do you go to?
Rep. Brian King: Probably buttered popcorn. Hard to eat it and not be cheered up.
Candidates.vote: Hot dogs or hamburgers?
Rep. Brian King: Hamburgers.
Candidates.vote: What newspapers/magazines/periodicals do you read, and do you read them in paper or digitally?
Rep. Brian King: I read a lot of stuff. I read the Salt Lake Tribune both digitally and in paper. I subscribe to, and read, the New York Times and the Washington Post digitally most days. I read the Deseret News digitally quite often. I subscribe to The Atlantic and The Nation. I have a subscription to Slate magazine. I read Vox and Salon online occasionally. I read a lot of stuff in magazines that I get from Twitter links.
Candidates.vote: What music do you enjoy listening to?
Rep. Brian King: I like a wide variety of music. Classical, rock, folk, are probably my favs. My favorite artists are Elliott Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Patty Griffin, Brahms, The Weepies, Angels & Airwaves, Tchaikovsky, Blood Sweat & Tears, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Mozart, Elvis Costello, Genesis, Radiohead, Haydn, Linkin Park, Handel, and Sara Bareilles are a few.
Candidates.vote: Do you have any pets, and if so, what are they?
Rep. Brian King: I don’t have any pets now but I love dogs and cats. I’ve had both for most of my life. And I have a grandpup, Winnie, an Airedale, that my daughter and son-in-law have.
Candidates.vote: What’s your favorite place to visit in Utah?
Rep. Brian King: I guess I would say the Boulder Mountain down in Wayne County. We have a family reunion there every other August and it is amazingly beautiful.
Candidates.vote: What was your first ‘real job’ and what did it teach you?
Rep. Brian King: My first real job was as a cashier at a gas station. It taught me to get an education and learn to do something that was intellectually stimulating.
Candidates.vote: Who is your greatest idol/person you look up to and why?
Rep. Brian King: I have a lot of people I think are worthy of emulating. Some have played huge roles in my life personally and others I’ve admired from afar. I am inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., because of his courage, his eloquence, his willingness to speak out about very difficult issues, and his commitment to non-violent methods to achieve social change. He was remarkable and I believe people will appreciate him more and more as time goes on. As for people who played a more personal role in my life that I think were great? My mother was a wonderful example of being balanced in every aspect of her personality. She left me far too early, passing on when I was only 23. But during that short time we had moved beyond the typical parent/child relationship and become good friends.
Candidates.vote: What is something you respect about your political opponents?
Rep. Brian King: It depends on who the political opponent is. Some I don’t respect at all. But I have some wonderful friends on the other side of the aisle. I respected the willingness of Speaker Greg Hughes to take decisive action when he felt that was necessary on things such as Operation Rio Grande. I respect the creativity and hard work of former Governor Mike Leavitt in coming up with solutions to Utah’s problems that crossed party lines. I respect very much the commitment of our current Governor, Gary Herbert, to nominate people as judges in our state court system who he thinks would do a good job regardless of their political or partisan orientation.
Candidates.vote: Finally, if you could send a message to anyone reading this, what would it be?
Rep. Brian King: I would say to anyone reading this that I believe the greatest sense of happiness and fulfillment they will have will be from taking an active role in shaping public policies that affect everyone in our communities, state, countries, and world. We all have things we need to be committed to in our own lives, such as making a living; and in our own families, such as ensuring that our loved ones are taken care of. Those are all very important and I don’t think we should shirk them. But I also think that the greatest sense of fulfillment to people will come from looking beyond ourselves and our own loved ones and serving larger groups of people.
Note – Michael Brownstein graduated from Salt Lake City’s West High School and is currently studying at the University of Utah majoring in Game Design and minoring in English.