Park Record 2018 Voter Guide: Utah Senate District 26 | ParkRecord.com

Park Record 2018 Voter Guide: Utah Senate District 26

Eileen Gallagher, left, and Duchesne County Commissioner Ron Winterton, right, candidates for District 26 in the Utah Senate. (Park Record composite image)

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.

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What are your qualifications for office and why are you running?

Eileen Gallagher (Democrat): I have been a pediatrician for almost 20 years. Throughout my career I have worked to provide excellent care in communities from rural areas to the Navajo Nation to the homeless families of our inner cities. I have cared for children and their families, working to ensure the best health for all. Yet I am no longer able to do my job well. We need healthcare reform in the US and reform starts in state legislatures.

I can also bring a scientific background to the legislature, one that is sorely needed in Utah. As someone who believes in a limited role for the Legislature in Utah, I can bring an non-interventionist voice to our government. And as a pediatrician, I am trained to advocate for others, to work with people of all backgrounds, bringing a nonpartisan and balanced voice to the legislature.

I have worked since my teens on campaigns at the local, state, and national level. I have served as a leader in the medical community, as well as in my schools, church, and neighborhoods. I have lobbied nationally for children's health issues, for state health care policy reform, and with my city council on local zoning issues.

Ron Winterton (Republican): I have been a lifelong Utah resident and have spent my entire life throughout this District. I owned and operated my own successful business for over 25 years. I have been a county commissioner for 10 years and have a great understanding of the issues and great potential that we have in this beautiful rural district.

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Despite recent increases in public education funding, Utah still ranks last in per-pupil spending. Are current funding levels adequate? If so, explain why. If not, what should be done to further increase funding?

Gallagher: No, they aren't. Utah is ranked #49-50 in the US in funding for students Our students perform moderately well compared to other states, reflecting the dedication of Utah's teachers and families to our children's education. However, we are falling behind. We have an emerging highly technical and skilled economy that needs talented workers and educated citizens. In order to avoid raising income taxes (which currently fund education in Utah), we have a statement on the ballot, called "Our Schools Now", that I support. We need to provide adequate state funding but we also need to provide our well-trained teachers a decent salary and a small class size so that we can fully invest in our future.

Winterton: Education is such an important issue in Utah. Our society depends greatly on the education of our children. I also support secondary education and concurrent enrollment. There are many ways to increase funding and I will work hard to bring more funds to our children's education.

Environmental stewardship is an important matter for Summit County, with both the Park City and Summit County governments setting renewable electric energy and zero-emission goals. What should be done at the state level to increase sustainability? Please cite one specific policy measure in your answer.

Gallagher: We are the only red state to have a climate change resolution passed by our legislature (HCR7, 2018). We are also an energy producing state that is rich in all types of energy. Those two statements are not in conflict: with environmental stewardship, responsible business practices, as well as state incentives and disincentives, we can design an energy producing economy that results in great jobs, a stable and thriving economy, and a healthy future. The challenge of reducing the impact of climate change and curtailing emissions is not a small or easy one, but we can address it with a bipartisan approach to the issue. I recommend a carbon fee and dividend based tax structure as a state policy, in order to allow the free market to drive companies to producing the best sources of affordable energy for our state.

Winterton: We all love living in a pristine environment. I support clean energy of all kinds. I will support the local cities and counties in their energy and environmental goals.

The cost of living in the Wasatch Back, as well as other areas of the state, has risen sharply in recent years and shows little signs of slowing down. How can the Legislature address the issue of affordability in places like Summit County? Please cite one specific policy measure in your answer.

Gallagher: The Legislature should, in general, leave land use and development issues to city and county governments to manage. Affordability is a local issue best managed by locals. I do think the Legislature can help promote affordability by increasing the strength of local cities and counties to create region-specific zoning or to incentivise developers to create needed housing, but it is best for the state to defer to local communities on this issue.

Winterton: Affordable living is a local issue and I believe the state should only support local governments in solving and accomplishing their goals.

Senate District 26 is large, spanning from the Wasatch Back to the Colorado border and including the cities of Park City, Heber City and Vernal, each with unique cultures and economic priorities. How will you represent the disparate interests of each area of the district?

Gallagher: Some interests of the various counties are disparate: we have tourism based economies, ranching based economies, and oil and gas dependent economies all in District 26. Despite the different economic environments, there are many shared values that unite us: we all want the best for our families, local schools, and our own communities. We all want access to affordable and excellent healthcare, excellent schools, and to manage our communities locally without state interference. By focusing on what is best for all of us, what we all agree on, and by promoting a legislative policy of minimal intervention, I can represent the people of the many economies and communities throughout the District.

Winterton: I can support and represent the interests of district 26 because I grew up and have lived here my entire life. I know and understand it. I have spent a great deal of my life in all the areas and counties here. My family originated in Wasatch County and I spent a lot of time there as a boy. In my transportation business I have had many associations and worked in all of the counties in the district. My wife spent her teenage years skiing the slopes in Park City and Summit County. I worked for many years throughout Daggett County and of course I have called Duchesne and Uintah Counties my home.

How do you differ from your opponent?

Gallagher: My opponent represents his financial interests in the oil industry and in the trucking industry. If he were to be elected, we can expect more legislation supporting his personal economic interests, not those of the District as a whole or on what would be best for our children and future generations. My opponent is financed by his family and PACs such as Energy Solutions: more than 75% of his funding comes from a small group of relatives and those with financial interests in the oil industry. My opponent is focused on representing his county's interests, not those of Summit or Wasatch, or of the District as a whole. A vote for me is a vote for someone whose campaign is financed by small donors, not by corporate interests, who is campaigning for the opportunity to serve all of us.

Winterton: I am a true conservative. I have spent the last 10 years learning and understanding the issues of rural Utah and attending the state legislature to protect and support our people, our industry, and our issues. I have been the recipient as a local leader of state and federal infringement and mandates. I understand how these infringements hurt our local economies and Families. I have the experience and have already developed the relationships to make me effective as soon as I walk into the capitol. Legislators who have not had local experience have a very long and difficult learning curve. I will be effective on day one.

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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.