Senate candidate Mike Kennedy talks DACA, climate change and Donald Trump in Park City
June 16, 2018
Mike Kennedy found himself making yet another stop on his underdog campaign against Mitt Romney on Wednesday. This time, it was Park City.
Kennedy, who is taking on Romney in the Senate GOP primary, sat for an interview prior to a private donor event in Park City on Wednesday evening.
While both Kennedy and Mitt Romney are Michigan natives, the state representative from Alpine is quick to point out that, as a Utah state legislator and physician, he has spent more time in Utah than his opponent.
"I know Utah, I love Utah. … It's something that brings that Utah perspective and Utah values to the table, and that's something my opponent can't duplicate," he said.
Romney, the country's most prominent Mormon politician and someone who many credit with saving the 2002 Olympics, is heavily favored to win the nomination and, ultimately, election to the Senate to replace longtime Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who is retiring. However, Kennedy won the majority of delegates at the GOP state convention and has made Romney's history as Massachusetts governor, relatively recent arrival to Utah and initial opposition to Donald Trump talking points in his campaign.
'Real reforms' for immigration
Kennedy's platform includes an emphasis on passing "real reforms to fix our broken immigration system."
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Kennedy, a first-generation American, declined to say what his ideal timeline on legislation regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would look like, emphasizing that he believes that building a wall on the Mexico border and legal immigration reform should be prioritized.
"After those priorities are taken care of, we can start working on our DACA recipients," Kennedy said. "Those are important people and I look at them with compassion, but we need to get number one and number two first before we can deal with number three."
The status of DACA recipients under the Trump administration has been a constant source of anxiety for undocumented Parkites who were brought across the border as children. Trump, whose administration announced an intention to end the program last year, has said he wants to see a legislative solution to avoid the deportation of so-called "Dreamers," many of whom have spent little time in their countries of origin.
Earlier in the campaign, Romney said at an event that "not all" DACA recipients should be allowed to stay.
Since the plan to end DACA was announced last September, Congress, with both houses controlled by Republicans, has made little progress toward a solution.
Kennedy also touched on other issues Parkites will weigh as they make their choice between him and Romney like health care, Utah's public lands, climate change, and President Trump.
The physician voted "no" when the Utah Legislature ultimately passed its plan for Medicaid expansion and has opposed the Affordable Care Act's implementation in the state.
"I see it as continued infringement of the federal government into our health care system," Kennedy said.
The candidate also supports exempting Utah from the Antiquities Act, which allows for federal designation of public lands, and turning over control of public land to the state and local governments.
"We've paid our dues and it's time for us to be able to manage those lands to our benefit and the benefit of the nation," Kennedy said. He added that resource extraction from public lands could work to "the benefit of everyone."
As Earth's climate continues to change, Park City and mountain towns that depend on the weather could see significant shifts. Referencing Summit County's Electric Xpress bus line, he said technology and more efficient transportation could help mitigate climate change's effects, such as the Salt Lake Valley's inversions. He said that could be achieved with or without global cooperation.
"When it comes to 'America First,' what's good for America is good for the whole world," Kennedy said.
Additionally, Kennedy reiterated his support of Trump, which he has made a cornerstone of his campaign as Romney, who once voiced vociferous opposition to the president, has appeared to embrace his policies of late. And while Kennedy wishes Trump would tweet less, the physician said he's behind the president's agenda.
"Gov. Romney seems to change his position here and there," Kennedy said. "I'm consistent with my conservative stances."
The differences between Kennedy and Romney during the campaign have been stark. In one recent instance, the candidates, both Mormons, split over the presence of Robert Jeffress, a Dallas-based evangelical pastor, at the ceremonial opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Jeffress has called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a "cult" in the past and has left few other faiths unspared in his claims that followers will face damnation.
Romney criticized the involvement of Jeffress in a tweet, calling the pastor a "religious bigot." Kennedy, however, called Jeffress to apologize for his opponent's comment.
In a recent story in the Deseret News, Kennedy, while visiting a senior center, sought to draw the contrast between him and Romney by referencing the businessman's annual business and political summit at the Stein Eriksen Lodge, held earlier in June.
"Right now, I'm here and he's in Park City, so there's a distinction there," Kennedy was quoted as saying.
The candidate elaborated on that comment before leaving for his Park City event.
"It's Park City in sort of a premiere event with special people; it's invitation-only," Kennedy said. "I'm not invested or interested in exclusive events. … I'm a man of the people."
Romney also planned to make a campaign stop in Summit County. He was scheduled to meet with residents at the city park in Kamas on Tuesday.
Voting for Republican primaries is underway and will conclude on June 26.