Republicans Johnny Ferry, John D. Johnson clash in state Senate primary |

Republicans Johnny Ferry, John D. Johnson clash in state Senate primary

Jeff Dempsey
The Park Record
Republicans John Ferry, left, and John D. Johnson are running to succeed longtime state Sen. Allen Christensen in District 19.
Courtesy of John Ferry and John D. Johnson

With the impending departure of Sen. Allen Christensen, Utah’s Senate District 19 will have new representation for the first time in 14 years.

Christensen announced in January he would not seek reelection, and two Ogden-area Republicans are vying to take his place in the district, which includes Coalville, Jeremy Ranch and Summit Park: Johnny Ferry, vice president of business development at Honeyville, and John D. Johnson, a professor of data analytics at Utah State University. The primary election is set for June 30, and the winner will face Summit County Democrat Katy Owens in November.

Johnson said he was inspired to run after the state Legislature increased sales taxes on groceries and gas, which lawmakers did during a special session in December.

“I am running because I believe in my heart we need fresh, innovative and conservative leadership to bring a new perspective to the Legislature,” he said. “The recent attempt to increase our gas and grocery taxes shows how off-base things have become. I’m proud to have been on the front lines from the beginning. We need more leaders who understand economics and will fight for Utahns and their family’s budget.”

Ferry, a fifth-generation member of a cattle-farming family, said he understands the importance of agriculture in the district and said he decided to run in part to represent that voice in the Legislature.

“(I was inspired by) the opportunity to serve,” he said. “I believe the best government is achieved by normal, everyday people that understand the economics of our society, running for office protecting our constitutional rights, and representing a voice at the decision table.”

When asked what separates him from his opponent, Johnson returned to the gas and grocery tax issue.

“Mr. Ferry claims to have fought against the tax on gas and groceries, but he signed (the referendum challenging the taxes) right before the final signatures were turned in,” Johnson said. “While we appreciate him joining the winning team so he can put stickers on his mailers to say he signed, I led out on this effort from the beginning and provided a lot of the funding for the process. If you look at the people endorsing him from our legislative delegation, every one of them voted to increase our taxes on food and fuel.”

Ferry said his “hands-on, real world, everyday experience” sets him apart from Johnson.

“My opponent has spent much of the past decade in a university setting,” Ferry said. “He gets a guaranteed paycheck from the state of Utah. The stereotype of the out-of-touch-with-reality university professor exists for a reason. There are already 10-plus other legislators in the Utah Legislature that work for one of our state’s higher education institutions. My experience as a manufacturer in our state will be a unique perspective and one that is critically needed at the capitol.”

Utah’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a frequent subject of debate, and for Johnson, the goal is to balance the public’s safety with the health of the economy.

“We need to encourage people to protect themselves and their families, but we need to jump-start the economy after COVID-19 by cutting taxes, removing unneeded regulations and rolling back unnecessary government,” he said. “We always need to take threats seriously, but we also need to balance individual liberty. Think of it as a balance between protecting our freedoms, public health, economy, small business and every individual Utahn affected by our response. I will focus on making it easier to work from home, start new businesses, and support creative technologies.”

Ferry said Utah has not yet seen the peak of COVID-19 and needs to plan accordingly.

“Sometime, hopefully soon, there will come a point that masks no longer will be needed but our personal finances, our jobs, our savings and retirement funds will feel the ongoing effect on our lives,” he said. “I treat this the same way I run my business in tight times: adjust budgets to meet revenue shortfalls. Freeze projects that are not necessary. Focus on Utah-based business support. Fully analyze where all dollars are spent. Provide focused tax relief specifically. Don’t lose sight of investing in the long-term including education, training, and investment in our rural infrastructure.”

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