Veteran lawmaker faces his toughest political fight
When voters go to the polls on June 22 there is a chance that a veteran Republican lawmaker in Summit County could lose his seat on Capitol Hill.
State Rep. Mel Brown, R-Coalville, is facing a difficult intra-party challenge from Wanship Republican Jon Hellander. Brown represents District 53, which includes areas of Summit, Wasatch, Morgan, Rich and Daggett counties. He is campaigning for a third term.
"It’s a new experience for me because I have never been in a primary before and they’re a lot different kind of campaign," Brown said in a telephone interview Thursday. "When you’re dealing with people inside your own party, you have to take different positions. You can’t take the gloves off quite like you can with the other party."
Republican delegates seizing on frustration from the far right nearly booted Brown at the state GOP convention May 8.
"I was not surprised at all because the general political unrest that exists in our country carries over into the state," Brown said. "With the economy the way it is, with the political climate the way it is, there is just a lot of unrest in the country right now and this is probably part of that."
His opponent’s campaign has received support from backers of the Tea Party and other ultra-conservative groups.
"We’ve got a group of people, for some reason, who have risen up in America lately and have decided that nobody knows the Constitution like they do They recruited [Hellander,]" Brown said. "I believe that these people are radical. They have a right to be, but I don’t necessarily want to be part of that group and I’m glad they didn’t embrace me because I don’t embrace them."
By further equalizing school funding in Utah, some lawmakers are threatening to take millions of dollars from schools in Summit County to redistribute throughout the state. Local taxpayers will need an experienced legislator who can fight these attempts to siphon money away from schools in Park City, Coalville and Kamas, Brown said.
"That’s a big issue and it’s a serious issue I want Summit County and District 53 to have a seat at the table, and you can’t be a player without some seniority," Brown said. "The people in Park City and Summit County have donated, through their taxes, an awful lot of money to support the education system in this state. If you allow this capital equalization to continue then you’ve got real problems."
Meanwhile, with the passage of tough new laws in Arizona, Utah lawmakers next year are likely to have many debates about immigration.
Brown said children should speak English before they enroll in public schools.
Federal officials have failed to enforce their immigration laws, he stressed.
"Until the federal government fulfills its responsibility, the states are trapped," Brown said.
He might support a law in Utah similar to Arizona’s new immigration measure, which requires law enforcement, while enforcing other laws, to question someone’s immigration status if an officer suspects the person is in the United States illegally.
"There is so much misinformation and disinformation about what that law is intending to do," Brown said. "It really wasn’t intended to create a profiling situation."
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