Senate candidate, a Democrat: SkiLink ‘doesn’t pass the smell test’ | ParkRecord.com

Senate candidate, a Democrat: SkiLink ‘doesn’t pass the smell test’

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

Scott Howell, a Democrat, is the party's nominee in the U.S. Senate campaign. He once was the minority leader in the state Senate. Courtesy of the Scott Howell campaign

Scott Howell, the Democrat campaigning for the U.S. Senate, on Monday was awaiting the winner of the Tuesday Republican primary between Sen. Orrin Hatch and Dan Liljenquist.

Howell secured his party’s nomination during the spring Democratic convention, winning enough support from delegates to avoid a primary that would have also been scheduled on Tuesday.

Howell, a 58-year-old from the Holladay area whose career was spent as an IBM sales executive, served three terms in the state Senate in the 1990s and early 2000s. He was the Senate minority leader for eight of his years at the Statehouse. He unsuccessfully ran against Hatch in the 2000 Senate campaign.

Howell said in an interview he has thus far taken a neutral position on SkiLink, the proposal to connect Canyons and Solitude Mountain Resort with a gondola. The idea hinges on the sale of approximately 30 acres of federal land to Canyons.

He said, though, the idea "doesn’t pass the smell test for me." He said there has not been enough public debate and review of the idea. Howell said he had not been briefed on the details of the SkiLink proposal.

"That is changing the face of our canyons," he said, noting that the state Senate district he once represented encompassed Solitude.

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Hatch is one of the sponsors of legislation that would allow SkiLink to continue through the federal process. The Canyons-Solitude connection discussions have been closely watched by environmentalists and the tourism industry, and it will likely be one of the important campaign issues for some people in Park City and surrounding Summit County.

The economy is critical to Howell’s overall platform. He said his experience in the private sector was preparation for the economic decisions that Washington, D.C., must make.

"I’ve got a clear acumen on the economy. I understand how the economy works," he said.

Howell said he wants a performance audit conducted on each federal department, something that he said will find that not all departments are providing returns on the money they spend and that the federal government has not used technology to the fullest. He said the audits could also uncover questionable uses of taxpayer money.

"I think there’s going to be a fair amount of fraud. I think there’s going to be a fair amount of abuse, waste," he said.

Meanwhile, Howell wants tax loopholes closed, including tightening tax laws to ensure the wealthy pay an appropriate amount of income taxes. The tax laws should be simplified, he said, criticizing the federal tax code as having "gone awry."

He supports an idea to cut corporate tax rates in an effort to encourage businesses to keep their operations in the U.S.

Some other planks in his platform include:

  • ensuring the education system remains competitive and reflects the needs of the 21st century
  • diversifying the national energy portfolio, saying that fossil fuels like coal and oil should be included with renewable sources like solar and wind
  • keeping Utah’s air and water clean in an effort to expand the economy
  • supporting a path to citizenship for some who are in the country illegally

    Howell is scheduled to visit Park City on Wednesday night for a fundraiser.

    He will likely have difficulty in November given the political makeup of heavily Republican Utah. Howell, though, could have a strong showing in Summit County, which is seen as one of the state’s reliable Democratic-leaning areas.

    In the 2000 campaign, he narrowly lost the county to Hatch in an election that the incumbent won by a wide margin when the statewide tally was completed. Howell predicts he will win Summit County in November with approximately 60 percent of the votes.

    More information about Howell is available on his campaign website, http://www.votehowell.org .