Park City congressional election forum covers immigration, marijuana, taxes
The two Democrats competing for the party’s nomination in the 1st Congressional District and a candidate representing the United Utah Party appeared at a forum in Park City on Thursday evening, covering a range of politically charged issues in a polite event held as the Democratic balloting has begun.
The event drew a small crowd to the Park City Library to listen to Democrats Kurt Weiland and Lee Castillo as well as the United Utah Party candidate, Eric Eliason. The appearances by Weiland and Castillo were especially notable since the two are vying for the Democratic nomination and voters have received their ballots in the mail-in election.
It is unusual for Park City to host a candidate event with one of the major party’s candidates so close to the date of an election. The primary is June 26. The winner of the Democratic will advance to Election Day to attempt to defeat the longtime Republican incumbent, Congressman Rob Bishop. Eliason does not need to compete in a primary.
The event at the library touched on numerous issues and was a mild-mannered affair as the candidates described their backgrounds and outlined platform stands. There appeared to be agreement on some of the critical issues.
There was some overlap when the candidates were asked to list the three most important issues. Weiland mentioned access to government, term limits and the restoration of public lands, while Castillo listed universal health care, public lands and immigration. Eliason answered with lowering the costs of health care, bipartisanship and transparency in politics.
The League of Women Voters, the Summit County Republican Party, the Summit County Democratic Party and the United Utah Party organized the event. The organizers said the incumbent was invited and opted not to attend. Bishop is the favorite in November in the heavily Republican district. Park City and surrounding Summit County are oftentimes outliers on Election Day, but strong Democratic showings locally make little difference in the overall results since Park City and the county make up a small percentage of the voting population of the district.
The candidates took questions from a moderator as well as the audience. The questions generally involved top-tier congressional issues like immigration.
The three candidates spoke about immigration and the plight of children of immigrants. Castillo said splitting up immigrant families is a traumatic event and the judicial system is flooded with immigration cases.
“People have rights. Those children have rights,” Castillo said.
Weiland told the crowd the U.S. border needs to be secured and he does not want “young people dying of thirst in the Sonoran Desert.”
“Every person in this room comes from immigrants,” Weiland said.
Eliason said families must remain intact, describing what he considers to be a “family first” approach.
“Separating families in any way should be out of the question,” he said.
The candidates also briefly addressed the related issues of taxes and the deficit with apparent agreement on some of the overarching topics. Eliason said spending by Washington is out of control, Weiland said tax legislation favors the wealthy and Castillo said he wants tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations repealed.
The three, meanwhile, offered brief comments about marijuana laws. Weiland said he supports the use of medical marijuana but not recreational use. Castillo provided a similar answer. Eliason said he supports the use of medical marijuana but did not explicitly address recreational use.
Other points the candidates made included:
• Weiland describing an idea for congressional term limits with members of the House of Representatives serving up to four terms and senators up to two terms.
• Castillo saying Utah is for everyone and he can no longer stand the divisiveness in politics.
• Eliason telling the crowd “country over party” as he spoke broadly about his campaign.
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