Professor, policy consultant square off in Senate District 19 |

Professor, policy consultant square off in Senate District 19

Senate District 19 candidates Katy Owens (D) and John Johnson (R).
Photos courtesy of Katy Owens and John Johnson

The race for state Senate District 19 will pit a Republican professor desiring a kickstart of the economy against a Democratic small business owner and public policy consultant arguing for a Legislature that better represents its constituents.

Republican John D. Johnson

John D. Johnson, a professor of data analytics at Utah State University, considers himself a Reagan Republican. He said he was inspired to run after the state Legislature increased sales taxes on groceries and gas during a special session in December.

“We need more leaders who understand economics and will fight for Utahns and their family’s budget,” he said. “I believe the best government is achieved by individuals who understand economics, values that represent the best of who we are, protecting our constitutional rights, and representing those voices at the decision table.”

Johnson said in the final weeks before the general election he plans to focus on the economy in the wake of COVID-19 and what he believes needs to be done to hasten its recovery.

“We can start by cutting taxes, unneeded regulations, and rolling back unnecessary government spending and programs. We can also work to make it much easier to work from home, start new businesses, and support creative technologies to help jump-start our state economy again,” he said.

Johnson said the health risks of COVID-19 need to be weighed against the dangers of infringing on individual freedoms.

“We always need to take threats seriously, but we also need to balance individual liberty,” he said. “Think of it as a balance between protecting our freedoms, public health, economy, small business and every individual Utahn affected by our response.”

Johnson said he worries that socialism is “creeping into our education system, stifling diversity of thought and preaching big-government socialism as our savior.”

“We need to get the government out of the way and put parents and teachers back in charge,” he said.

Johnson said his focus is primarily on economic development.

“We must continue our economic development responsibly while protecting our family neighborhoods,” he said. “We need to plan our infrastructure, so we have less time spent in traffic and more time spent with our families. My experience in data analytics and economics uniquely prepares me to analyze growth and plan responsibly for our growth while ensuring Utah remains a great place to live, work and raise a family.”

Democratic candidate Katy Owens

Katy Owens holds a master’s degree in political science and has worked in election administration for the past 10 years at the county, state, national and international levels. During that time she has testified on topics like election security, voting by mail and technology in the voting process in more than a dozen state legislatures.

Owens said she was compelled to run for office herself because the Legislature is not adequately representing its people.

“The majority party seem(s) to think that they don’t have to listen to voters when we pass ballot measures or oppose major tax reform,” she said. “My background is in public policy and working with state legislatures, and I’ve seen firsthand the positive changes that can happen when legislators genuinely listen to the people they represent.”

Owens said she is knocking on doors daily and she’s confident that, if elected, she can ensure the voices of the people she’s spoken with will be heard in the Legislature.

Owens said her most pressing issues are safety in schools and health care, which she said go hand in hand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I have kids in public schools and family members who are high risk for COVID-19,” she said. “Top of mind for me right now is ensuring that our educators and students feel safe and supported, and that everyone has access to the health care they need during this pandemic.”

As a small business owner herself, Owens said she wants to see Utah’s state government do more to support businesses like hers. COVID-19 and its effects are likely to be felt for the next several years, she said, and small businesses need assistance from the government if they are going to survive.

“We need to ensure small businesses are propped up and receiving the help they need,” she said.

Owens said she thinks she has a particular set of skills that make her a better choice than Johnson.

“We’re at a moment in history where we need leaders who consider the most vulnerable among us when making public policy decisions,” she said. “We need leaders who listen to voters, and who have the experience to make smart policy choices.”

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