A Park City tech consultant is taking on a Midway dairyman in the Republican primary for House District 54
A lifelong dairyman from Midway is taking on a Park City-area tech consultant in the Republican primary for Utah House District 54.
Mike Kohler is a dairy industry lobbyist and former long-time Wasatch County councilor who says that his experience in and around government has taught him that government regulation tends to overreach.
“Lesser is better than more in regards to government,” Kohler said in a recent interview.
Randy Favero is a business consultant who worked for years in the tech sector for firms like IBM and Netscape. He says lawmakers need to view the state as an enterprise to be leveraged to create economies of scale.
“Give me the facts, give me the data, give me the arguments (to make) the best decision for the state of Utah and its citizens,” he said.
Kohler, 65, and Favero, 68, are vying for the Republican nomination in the June 30 primary to take on Democrat Meaghan Miller in the November general election. Miller narrowly lost in 2018 to Rep. Tim Quinn, who decided not to run again. Kohler bested Favero 34 votes to 23 in the state GOP convention, but did not reach the threshold necessary to bypass a primary.
Kohler said the issues that motivated him to run are education, agriculture and overhauling the state’s tax system. He said he knows from his years lobbying for the dairy industry on Capitol Hill and as a local elected official that people have much more clout and influence from inside the government. He said it will be his job if elected to be a check on lifelong bureaucrats he claims advocate overregulation, a group he referred to as the deep state.
“Elected officials tend to be a little bit of a lesser problem. I think it’s more or less the full-time bureaucrats that tend to push for more and more regulations,” Kohler said. “I think elected people are put there for a reason, to manage that. The deep state you’ll call it. … My role is looking into that role of regulation for the customer, for the consumer.”
Favero said he is running to address what he sees as falling academic achievement numbers and to encourage sustainable economic development.
“(I) worked on large businesses, three startups I’ve been involved in, maybe I can add a new perspective instead of one that is shaped by those that have been here all their lives,” he said.
He said it’s the government’s responsibility to protect its citizens, build and maintain infrastructure and support the economy.
The district covers Wasatch County and parts of Summit County, including the ranch near Glenwild where Favero lives and breeds quarterhorses, as well as Park City proper.
Kohler said, were he to be elected to represent liberal-leaning Park City, he would take the responsibility seriously to listen to his constituents’ concerns and represent them at the Statehouse.
Favero said he would work across the aisle with Democrats and said the best ideas should win out.
As for advocating sustainable energy solutions to combat climate change, which both the Summit County and Park City governments have done, Kohler said the solutions should be market oriented and not dictated by the government.
“Mandating stuff usually gets you in trouble,” Kohler said. “I’m not necessarily a subscriber to man-caused climate change. I think the climate goes through cycles. … I would support clean energy initiatives any time. But it’s not something we should impair people’s freedom (for).”
Favero said he supported energy solutions like Park City Transit’s electric bus system.
“I don’t think the problem with climate is all man-made. Nature does its thing. But I certainly think we’re having an impact,” he said. “We need to be doing everything we can to be good global citizens, respectful of our neighbors and friends and other inhabitants.”
Both men said education was one of their top priorities.
Kohler said he would explore alternatives for education that would help the funding situation, possibly by making the system less reliant on traditional models.
“I think we pay our teachers too little,” Kohler said. “I think teachers need to get more. I think we put too much emphasis in ornate buildings. Some of that money (should go) to teachers.”
Favero advocated using technology to leverage teachers’ time and to create individualized learning plans tailored to each student.
“Funding may be a root cause. Rather than whether it’s enough funding (we should look at) how it’s distributed, how effectively it’s been used,” he said.
The candidates took contrasting positions on the state’s response to the pandemic.
Kohler said the government has taken a heavy-handed approach in trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and instead advocated for personal responsibility.
“I’d rather see a more freedom-based approach,” he said. “If you’re afraid, if you feel you’re vulnerable and need to stay in, stay in. If a business wants to open, put guidelines in, people can choose to go. I just don’t think it’s the government’s role to control what we do. I think we’ve been treated like we don’t know anything and would be stupid with it. Open it up and let people choose.”
He added that he normally doesn’t wear a mask, but also doesn’t go into public often and would wear a mask if in a group setting like a sports event.
Favero said the state did well in the early days of the pandemic to have a clear plan and criteria for reopening.
“While it’s impacted people, hurt people, I don’t think it’s impacted people’s rights,” he said. “It was necessary. If and when it strikes again we will be better equipped to answer.”
He said even though he feels strange doing so, he wears a mask in public. He said he does so to protect others in the community.
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