The resignation of Rep. Jason Chaffetz from the U.S. House of Representatives has meant that candidates from a handful of political parties in Utah are running to replace him in Congress.
That includes three Republicans: Chris Herrod, a real estate executive and former state legislator; John Curtis, Provo’s mayor and a former business owner; and Tanner Ainge, a former health care executive and attorney.
I asked them three questions after a recent debate in central Utah. The first two topics were particular to them and the third was an invitation to say anything they wanted.
The primary election is Aug. 15. Democratic Party candidate Kathie Allen and contestants from other parties do not face a challenger in the primary.
his immigration plan: Herrod has been criticized for an immigration plan that favors deportation and to “wait in line.” He said he wanted to make sure those who come are “self-sufficient.”
“I think there is great honor in that,” he said.
His former caucus: The Patrick Henry caucus has garnered press attention. While he agreed that it was for the state legislature, he talked about the importance of building coalitions that can influence a larger lawmaking body as the caucus did in his six years in the state legislature.
Anything else? “I guess I’m an honorary rural person,” he added. “That’s how much I love rural Utah.”
Investigations: Curtis said that as mayor when he needed to investigate an elected official, he found himself in a similar position to Chaffetz. The former congressman, as the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, could have investigated President Donald Trump and was prodded by constituents to do so.
“My experience is the quicker you bring in an outside expert, give them the facts, and let that person speak to what you’ve got, the quicker you can move on,” Curtis said.
An LGBTQ organization being dis-invited: The Provo Freedom Festival operated a parade where Curtis was the grand marshal in Curtis’ city. It was criticized for not allowing the LGBTQ support organization Encircle to participate after approving it.
“It was really unfortunate, particularly the way it unfolded,” Curtis said. “Provo City… (doesn’t) dictate who is in the parade.”
“I was hopeful that (the parade) would have found a way for (Encircle)” to be in – they serve an important role with youth in our community,” added Curtis, whose gay son has spoken about being the candidates’ family on Facebook.
Anything else? “I just hope we can navigate (the Encircle issue) better.”
Gordon Hayward’s departure: A Utah Policy Daily poll showed that participants thought Gordon Hayward leaving the Utah Jazz, after an offer from Ainge’s father Danny Ainge to join the Boston Celtics, would hurt Ainge’s campaign. Ainge said folks do talk with him about Hayward leaving, “but that’s not what people are going to vote on,” he said.
“When they hear my message… that’s what they care about,” said Ainge, though he added that there was going to be an event to dunk his father in a dunk tank over the Hayward transition.
His father’s name: Danny is also popular with constituents, as he is a former basketball star at Brigham Young University, which is in the district. Does that mean that Ainge is riding name recognition?
“Look, my approach here in this campaign is people need to understand me,” Ainge said. “They need to know what I stand for; they need to understand my business experience, my legal experience, my political principles. And when they get a chance to do that, they start to realize that ‘oh, it’s not just a last name that they recognize.’”
Anything else? “No.”