GOP state Senate candidates sound off on local control, gun violence, affordable housing and more at Park City Q&A
The three Republican candidates for Senate District 26, a seat which Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal, will vacate, faced an audience of about 30 people for a question-and-answer session at the Park City Board of Realtors on Wednesday evening.
Jack Rubin, a candidate from Park City, attended, as well as Brian Gorum, a Vernal insurance agent who garnered the most votes at the Utah GOP convention earlier this year, and Ron Winterton, a Duchesne County Commissioner based in Roosevelt who has secured Van Tassell’s endorsement. The three men are running for the Republican nod in the race to represent the 26th, a sprawling area including the Wasatch Back and Uinta Basin, with diverse economic interests ranging from Park City’s resorts, Heber’s agriculture and Vernal’s fossil fuel industry.
Here’s where the candidates stand on a handful of hot topics among Parkites, based on their answers to questions asked by attendees and The Park Record.
How will you handle issues where the Legislature seeks to supersede local jurisdiction, such as a hypothetical bill to close businesses on Sunday or the bag ban bill?
Rubin: “That’s the sort of thing that should be decided not at the state level but the local level, the local community wants to have particular laws. … I have no issue with that. Statewide I don’t think that’s appropriate to be done at the state level.”
Gorum: “I can’t imagine what would happen to Park City, being a world-class city, telling someone that they couldn’t get something on Sunday. … I would never vote for something like that.”
Winterton: “As a commissioner, I let the cities do their own thing. If they need assistance, we will assist them. If they need direction, we’ll direct them, but we should not mandate or run their lives.”
Would you vote for gun control laws that appear in the Senate?
Rubin: “The Constitution is the greatest governing document ever written; written by geniuses. Two hundred and thirty-one years old, it applies every bit today as the day it was written. It’s not open for interpretation. … I would give you the same answer to this as I would on sanctuary cities: It’s not up to the local mayor or the governor to decide which (federal) laws to enforce.”
Gorum: “I will look you dead in the eye and say: ‘shall not be infringed.’ It doesn’t have a comma after it; it has a period after it. … Utah should have the most friendly gun laws, and we don’t. … (Gov. Herbert has) vetoed several laws and driven me crazy. … We have a retired Supreme Court justice, John Paul Stevens, that just came out and publicly said it. They’ve always hinted at it, but (Stevens) publicly said it: that we should abolish the Second Amendment. We should be afraid. We should be very, very afraid.”
Winterton: “If you look at where the problems are, it usually always is in a gun-free zone. Why is that? You go to an open-carry state anywhere, and you can go to Wyoming and see them in the restaurants, you don’t hear about (mass shootings) happening there. Why? … If somebody knows they may take the risk, that they could be shot too, they’re probably going to think two or three more times (before committing a shooting). … The Second Amendment has to be protected. It’s a federal issue, the states should not get involved in this. … To open up the Constitution, to add something else to it, scares me to death because this would be the first one that you would see going out the door.”
How would you deal with the state and Park City area affordable housing crisis?
Rubin: “If it’s below market rate, you’re not going to be able to build your way out of it, because you’re giving away something below market. … If you want to see a good affordable housing discussion, stop the ‘One in 10 needs to be affordable when you build an apartment block’ and make it a tax issue that we all pay. And then we can all have a nice conversation about it. And if there’s a bartender looking at affordable housing, why is that bar owner able to pay that guy less because we’re paying his rent? I believe it should be for public service employees only. If you’re a chef or a ski tuner, take the bus.”
Gorum: “It’s going to have to be a private sector (solution). The businesses that need employees are going to have to solve this problem. … I don’t see this as a government issue.”
Winterton: “It goes back to your master plan, if you’re going to have all these people, you’re going to have all the restaurants and services, who’s going to hold down those jobs? If you’re going to import all the workers for that, you need to address this problem or you’re going to pay higher for your services. It’ll solve itself, but we need to address it upfront.”
Do you support the Legislature’s and Utah Decides Healthcare ballot initiative’s Medicaid expansion plans?
Rubin: “The state is not the provider of all services to all people. That being said, providing critical care to those who need it is important. The question is, is expansion of Medicaid the most efficient way to do it?”
Gorum: “Utah is one of the most conservative states in the nation. We need to start acting like it. … We need to redefine the model and make competition in healthcare a priority. It pushes the price down, it makes it more accessible to everyone.”
Winterton: “I’m not for expanding Medicaid and Medicare. I think that’s a government handout that only enables people to stay on it longer. And it’s not free, we pay for it on the other end.”
How can the state deal with the effects of climate change on Summit County?
Rubin: “I’m a skier. I like snow. … The real issue with global warming is that it’s a global problem. What I don’t think makes sense is to put your economy into a stranglehold locally for an issue that may be governed by coal burning in India or China or other places.”
Gorum: “We have to understand that we in District 26 are not going to be the absolute answer to the problem but we can be part of the solution. But before you jump off the cliff, remember last year, 2016, Brian shoveled a whole lot of snow out of the driveway.”
Winterton: “Because the universities are still studying this and trying to put their finger on it. … We’re just going to have to deal with it as it comes.”
How will you handle relations with the Ute tribe, which inhabits the Uinta Basin and owns a lot of land with fossil fuels?
Rubin: “They’re independent operators who need to be treated like other citizens, I want to deal with them on an equal basis.”
Gorum: “We can’t tell them what they’re going to do.”
Winterton: “I’ll do anything I can to help the (Ute) tribe succeed, because if they succeed, the Basin succeeds and the state succeeds.”
The primary election will be conducted by mail. The Summit County Clerk’s office will mail out primary ballots on June 5, and they should be postmarked no later than June 25. Only registered Republicans may vote in the party’s primary.
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The Park City lodging industry in recent weeks experienced an uptick in projected occupancy numbers during the dates of the Sundance Film Festival, but the figures remain depressed from a typical year during the largest special event on the city’s calendar.