Park Record 2018 Voter Guide: U.S. House of Representatives UT-1
With Election Day approaching, and mail-in ballots on their way to residents, The Park Record asked candidates to answer a series of questions in their own words in order to help voters make informed decisions. View the answers of candidates in other races here.
Please describe your background and how it prepares you for the office you seek.
Rob Bishop (Republican, incumbent): I spent 28 years as a high school teacher in Utah, focusing on American History and Government. I also served 16 years in the state legislature, including as Majority Leader and as the unanimously-elected Speaker of the House. Because of my background in the legislature, I was able to hit the ground running after first being elected to Congress. My colleagues recognized from the start that I am about substance and solutions, not making a splash or clamoring for credit; and because of that I was able to jump over other members who had more seniority than I did. Since that time, I have become the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. These are two committees that are of vital importance to Utah, and especially to the 1st Congressional District. I became Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee nearly four years ago, and because House Chairmanships are limited to six years, this year (2018) will be my last Congressional election. I have always wanted to serve Utah while I can serve it best.
Lee Castillo (Democrat): My life experiences and education have prepared me for the congressional office I am seeking. I was born and raised in utah. As a youth I worked in the fields around Layton with three generations of my family members. As a young man I was rendered homeless and know what that is like. I worked my way through college to get my masters degree in social work. I worked at Hill AFB family practice clinic and understand the needs of our military families. I then worked for DCFS foster care system and understand the needs of struggling families and it’s impact on children. I presently work for the state hospital providing competency restoration to those who are in our jail system who have been deemed incompetent by our court system. I understand what lack of medical/psychological care does to people and the end result of the opioid crisis. I am familiar with all levels of societies issues and know how to resolve them. I am a 41 year old Latino therapist who feels what Congress needs today is a therapist who specializes in competency restoration. Utah is diverse and I truly believe “Utah is for everybody “.
Eric Eliason (United Utah): As a father of four kids between the ages of 14-20, I enter this race firmly invested in the future of our state, nation, and world. I was born in Logan, and my youth was spent working on farms and ranches in southern Idaho. After a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Belgium, I graduated from BYU with degrees in Finance and International Relations. I furthered my education with an MBA at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. After enjoying a short stint at McKinsey and Company, I returned to Utah’s 1st Congressional District where I worked on the management teams of several rapidly growing small businesses as President or COO. The skills I gained throughout my business career will enable to work to bring opposing sides together, promote innovation, and work towards a balanced budget.
The U.S. and Utah economies continue to perform well a decade after the depths of the recession. Please discuss what you see as the state of the economy and whether you foresee any dangers to economic growth. In your answer, please identify one policy you would propose to further spur the economy and one policy you would oppose out of concern it would damper growth.
Bishop: Wages are up, unemployment is down, and there is a renewed sense of optimism when it comes to the economy in America. Frankly, it’s been a refreshing change of pace. I believe the tax bill we passed has a lot to do with that. It allows people to keep more of their hard-earned money and encourages business growth, including manufacturing, right here in the United States. We need to keep on the same trajectory, and continuing to keep taxes low while eliminating unnecessary and burdensome regulations, will continue to push our economy forward.
Castillo: At the moment it seems the economy is doing great but what is not obvious is the pending implosion of some policy changes which are economic growth killers. One such policy is this zero tolerance immigration enforcement. What is not highly obvious is this policy is killing smaller family farms and hospitality businesses. I am not for open borders just common sense enforcement and recognizing reality. I spoke to many farmers who are on the verge of bankruptcy because they can’t hire workers they need. We are trending to where we will have to import food. Quite frankly I see this as a national security as well as a business issue. I would support actually iniate a special visa for Ag/Hospitality where they can hire undocumented personnel. Those folks would be deemed needed skills and not subject to deportation. I support immigration enforcement tempered with humanity -it is also cheaper.
Eliason: I am pleased that our economy has recovered from the depths of the recession. Unfortunately, however, irresponsible government spending has meant that this boom in the economy has not translated into less national debt. In fact, our national debt is larger than it has ever been and it’s growing faster than it’s ever grown. It looms as one of our nation’s greatest threats. Republicans have always pledged to be the party of fiscal responsibility, Republicans in control of the House, Senate, and Executive, and our national debt is growing faster than ever.
Healthcare is our biggest expenditure. By better aligning incentives and keeping insurance and pharmaceutical companies honest, we can reduce costs and increase coverage and results in our healthcare system, and, by extension, start to reduce our national debt. I will oppose all unnecessary spending, especially when it’s spurred on by special interests.
The federal government has vast lands across Utah, including significant acreage in Summit County, but crafting management policies has long been a challenging process as Congress weighs the disparate interests such as industry and recreation. Please describe a management plan that you believe would properly balance the various interests and how that plan would address the strains between Washington and local governments. Are there any federal lands in Utah that should be reviewed for tightened or loosened protections?
Bishop: My two main priorities when it comes to public land in Utah are increasing access for Utahns and enhancing local voices when it comes to decision-making on that land. Public land issues are unique to each specific area and, as such, there cannot be a one size fits all type of plan for land management. Conservation, development, and recreation are all legitimate uses and there is enough land out there to have balanced use between them. Unfortunately, there are certain special-interest-groups that have worked to restrict certain legitimate uses with which they ideologically disagree and, through excessive litigation, have damaged the management tools of federal agencies. This has contributed to our major wildfire problem, which I am working to address. As Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, my work has always focused on the need to balance all uses on public lands and to give special heed local community voices.
Castillo: Federal lands need a management plan that isn’t zero or max mineral extraction oriented. Sadly what we have seen feels like an attack on sacred Native lands and our national parks are trending to become a high priced for profit theme park. What we need to do is identify sacred lands such as Bears Ears then if we need mineral extraction to offset the cost of maintaining these and other federal lands develope a percentage of extraction needed. The tribes who the land this really belongs to should be the ones to identify appropriate extraction sites. Admission costs for federal parks are already prohibiting for low income families. If you allow mineral extraction charge more than the incredibly low fees now charged. Then lower admission costs. If extraction is allowed it needs to be done with minimal impact and max revenue. For sacred lands tighter protections and for others less.
Eliason: Rob Bishop and the Natural Resources Committee have been crafting management policy through the lens of $6 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, thus unable to make any decision objectively. The day that Bears’ Ears and Grand Staircase were shrunk, Bishop stated to Doug Wright (KSL) that the downsizing was not about oil and gas and that they would be protected legislatively. Eight months later, these areas are licensed for extraction.
There is common ground regarding a multiple-use plan for public lands. I support this plan as long as we safeguard what could be permanently lost without protection. Personal gain shouldn’t be part of the equation regarding protections on Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears’ Ears. We need to use a more objective standard to evaluate and balance extraction and the uniqueness and wildness of Utah.
President Trump remains a deeply polarizing figure as he approaches the middle of the term. Supporters are pleased with what they see as a strong economic record and his fulfillment of campaign promises on issues like immigration, but detractors are dismayed by what they consider to be his hubris and erratic political behavior. Please discuss the successes or failures of the Trump administration. Also please identify one of Trump’s policies you pledge to support and one you pledge to oppose, and why.
Bishop: For me, it’s a question of style versus substance. Sometimes, people find President Trump’s style abrasive and, frankly, I don’t tweet and wish some others didn’t either. However, on substance, this Administration has worked with Congress to help pass conservative legislation and appoint conservative leaders in the Executive and Judicial branches of our government. We are seeing the results of promoting strong conservative principles in the thriving economy we have today. I’ve never been the type to try and angle for a sound-bite on the news, so when I have disagreements with the Administration, I work directly with them to build strong public policy. That is much more productive.
Castillo: The true failure of the Trump admistration is it’s lack of humanity and long term vision as to impact .I do think revisiting some of the inequality in trade deals makes sense but should not be done after the US agreed to something but for future negotiations .I agree we do need better border security but it needs to be done humanely and not by building a physical wall but with increased electronic security.
Eliason: One should be able to recognize positive elements of the Trump Presidency while still condemning his demeaning and erratic behavior. The success of both President Trump and Bernie Sanders indicate that our country desperately wants change from the political status quo. President Trump questions the status quo at every turn, and that is not a bad thing. In the process, however, President Trump consistently goes out of his way to wade into issues he shouldn’t be wading into, needlessly demeans others, and often seems uninterested in facts. I will support the positive Trump policies which have led to a growing economy, while I will oppose irresponsible spending on things like a wall on our entire southern border. Additionally, I will be a fierce advocate for civility and constructive debate that our government so desperately needs.
Immigration reform remains a deeply divisive issue in Washington as Congress attempts to forge policies that provide for the security of the nation and are seen as compassionate at the same time. Please outline an immigration policy that properly weighs the competing interests.
Bishop: There is so much angst and anger over that issue that you’re never going to solve any other issues until we can honestly look constituents in the face and say we have control of the border both in the south and the north, that is why border patrol agents need more ability to access the land they’re charged with monitoring. Enforcement, citizenship, and barriers can be easily discussed and resolved after we seal the gaps along the border where border patrol agents are barred from monitoring. However, enforcement and compassion aren’t mutually exclusive. Once the border is truly secure, it’s easy to come up with a mechanism so that the kids who were brought here not of their own accord have a way to legal status.
Castillo: Immigration policy needs to be tempered by our past commitments and overall business needs .One issue at the forefront is DACA -these kids came forward on a nations promise. We must give them citizenship as promised. This action will not decrease our security one tiny bit and was a promise. We cannot make one presidents commitment disappear because we don’t like it. Visa restrictions are destroying smaller farms and hospitality industries in district 1. We need the temporary visa for those industries not to be limited by some arbitrary number but set by the places that need the labor. They should be allowed to hire undocumented people already here and those people should be exempt from deportation due to the need for their skill set. Some common sense guidelines such as they would have to have lived here for a min of a year would be added.
Eliason: Our nation was founded by immigrants, and immigrants continue to provide great value to our country by enriching our cultural fabric and boosting our economy. We need to secure our border because doing so will enable our country to take steps to provide a viable way for immigrants to enter our country. Immigration represents a massive failure by Congress solve meaningful issues. Instead, Presidents (past and present) have tried to fix the situation by executive order. Congress should do their job and take the needed steps to stop the flow of illegal immigrants at the border and rewrite immigration legislation to provide a path for some number of both skilled and unskilled workers to make their way into our country.
Please differentiate yourself from your opponents.
Bishop: An important difference between me and my opponents is that I bring extensive local government experience to the table. That’s important because it teaches a perspective on how government should work, as opposed to going back to Congress as your first public service and believing that’s how it is supposed to be. Utah does it better than Washington, D.C. and I understand that. Beyond that, I have built a reputation over my time in Congress as someone who is focused on substance and doing the work, which I believe has garnered the respect of my colleagues. I am Utah’s only representation on the Armed Services Committee and the Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee. Those committee assignments don’t come easily, and since those committees have such a direct effect on Utahns lives, I am well-positioned to help Utah succeed and will work tirelessly to help Utah families.
Castillo: I am as diverse as this state. I have a completely different background and cultural experience than my opponent but I understand his. I am a Hispanic, single father, Christian, gay man who is a trained therapist. I don’t want to represent some of you -I want to represent everyone. I won’t sit by when inhumanity is on display nor will I moderately stand up for the constituents of district 1-I will fight for you. I don’t see this job as just pushing legislation but also one of speaking up no matter which party is in the White House. I will listen to everyone but would never support bigotry or injustice. I believe “Utah is for everybody “ and so is health care.
Eliason: I believe deeply in the ideals our great country was founded upon, and I believe we desperately need to get back to a place where Americans of disparate backgrounds and ideologies can work together towards a common good. I will be a constant voice for civility in Washington.
I will never principally oppose legislation simply because it’s sponsored by someone I might have disagreements with like my opponent has. I will never demean others with whom I disagree like my opponent has. Unlike my opponent, I will always work to find compromise between interested parties. Unlike my opponent, I will fight for our public lands and environment. Unlike my opponent’s party I will fight for a balanced budget. Unlike my opponent, I recognize the shortcomings of our healthcare system and I will work to fix it.
Rob Bishop typifies the Washington D.C. swamp. I pledge to support term-limits and work with like-minded individuals to fix campaign finance. I will never accept a campaign donation which could which might lead my constituents to believe they do not have my full allegiance like my opponent has. I have rejected campaign donations from PACs and corporations and will always do so.
According to the Summit County Clerk’s Office, ballots for the Nov. 6 election are set to begin arriving by mail on Friday, Oct. 19. Ballots returned through the mail must be postmarked by Nov. 5. Residents can register to vote online or at the Clerk’s Office through Oct. 30. Same-day registration will also be available at four voting assistance centers throughout the county on Election Day. Visit http://co.summit.ut.us/281/Voter-Registration-Elections for more information.
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Sen. Allen Christensen, one of the two men to represent Summit County in the State Senate, announced he will not seek another term after 16 years in office.