U alumnae, daughter campaign together

By By Jaime Winston, Staff Writer

By Jaime Winston, Staff Writer

U student Erica Houck says she has been more politically driven since her mother, Rebecca Chavez-Houck, became a state legislator.

“Her being in the political world has opened my mind to both Republican and Democratic beliefs,” said Houck, a sophomore at the U College of Nursing.

Chavez-Houck was appointed to represent District 24 by Democratic delegates nine months ago. Ralph Becker left the position when he was elected mayor of Salt Lake City.

Houck is campaigning for her mother’s second term. She almost always has flyers to give to other students.

“I’m already representing my mother,” she said. “I just think she’s done so much for our community.”

Chavez-Houck’s daughter is not her only connection to the U.
She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from the U 26 years ago, and earned her Master’s of Public Administration degree at the U in 2006. As a student, she was an Associated Students of the University of Utah representative for the College of Humanities and a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority.

In 1991, Chavez-Houck was public relations director for the Utah Museum of Natural History. She entered politics as a Democratic campaign volunteer and a member of the Young Democrats of Utah. She said her time at the U helped prepare her politically.

“It’s where I got a lot of my foundation for how I see the world,” she said.

Many U students live in Chavez-Houck’s district, which includes the Avenues, Capitol Hill and much of downtown.

Last week, as a member of the Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee, Chavez-Houck looked at a piece of legislation to provide tax breaks for U, and other higher education students on tuition.

“On face value I like the look of it,” she said, but warned that a tax break could draw revenue away from other state expenses. “When the bill was looked at, the fiscal net was $90 million in lost revenues to the state.”

While she is undecided on a tuition tax break, Chavez-Houck supported funding for the Regents’ Utah Scholars Program, which gives college scholarships to students based on their high school course load.

“We’re hoping that it helps young people in eighth grade think “this is something I actually can do,'” Chavez-Houck said.

Another bill Chavez-Houck proposed was to allow cohabiting couples to adopt children, which she said could impact lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students at the U.

“It was probably also the most frustrating bill because I couldn’t get it out of the rules committee,” she said.

At present, cohabiting couples can not adopt a child. This decreases the chance of an LGBT couple having a child “for no other reason than their sexual orientation,” Chavez-Houck said.

Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake, supported the adoption bill. He said if they are both re-elected, they will most likely tackle the issue again in addition to other social justice issues.

“She’s done a lot in the course of one session,” Litvack said. “She is very articulate when she speaks and the one thing I always appreciated is she’s very strategic.”

Chavez-Houck has also worked extensively with Girl Scouts of Utah, Centro de la Familia de Utah, Utah Public Employees’ Association and Planned Parenthood.

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