Voters find packed house in Hideout candidate town hall
As dark clouds gathered over the Jordanelle on Thursday evening, all five candidates to represent Park City in the state Legislature appeared in front of voters at a town hall event organized by an informal group of Hideout citizens.
About 25 people, near the room’s capacity, attended the gathering.
The event’s format allowed each candidate — Democrat Meaghan Miller and Republican incumbent Rep. Tim Quinn running for the seat in House District 54, joined by Senate District 26 hopefuls Republican Ronald Winterton, Democrat Eileen Gallagher and United Utah Party’s Cathy Callow-Heusser — up to 10 minutes to speak about their priorities before a 30-minute question-and-answer session with voters and a meet and greet to close out the night.
The occasion afforded the candidates a chance to lay out what they believe are the biggest issues facing their would-be constituencies.
The Republican from Heber running for re-election in House District 54 called the recent compromise on medical marijuana legalization “tremendous.” Advocates on both sides announced earlier Thursday that they had agreed to a special legislative session on the issue, which Gov. Gary Herbert said would come after the midterms. While Proposition 2, a ballot measure that would make medical cannabis legal in Utah, will remain on the ballot, groups in favor of and opposed to the measure will cease advertising. Quinn did not indicate in his remarks where he would land on the issue once it’s in front of the House.
Quinn, the lone incumbent at the event, also hit familiar campaign notes as he touted Utah’s economic growth, crediting it to conservative fiscal policies for which he has advocated, and reiterated his voting record on issues important to the Wasatch Back.
Miller, a Parkite, emphasized her experience researching health care policy as well as her relative youth, which she said would inform a welcome perspective on Capitol Hill. The People’s Health Clinic staffer said she fully supports Proposition 3, the ballot initiative to expand Medicaid beyond the Legislature’s plan hashed out earlier this year and said the current state of health care policy leads to “unacceptable” outcomes.
Other issues Miller highlighted include her concern over the rising cost of living in Utah.
“I speak with a lot of people in Wasatch County and I say I’m renting in Park City and they’re like, ‘Oh, I used to live in Park City,” Miller said. “It furthers the reality that (not living in) Park City and possibly not even Heber is a reality for my sons.”
In the race to succeed retiring Sen. Kevin Van Tassell in Senate District 26, Winterton, a Duchesne County commissioner and trucking business owner from Roosevelt, said he’d head to Capitol Hill with a conservative agenda focused on improving transportation throughout the area. Currently, the Uintah Basin’s economy relies on trucks hauling fossil fuels that are restricted to U.S. 40, a two-lane highway in many places.
Heber residents at the event also expressed concern over U.S. 40’s route straight through the middle of town. Winterton said he’d work to find a solution that would also maintain the character of downtown Heber.
The Democrat from Park City running against Winterton fashioned herself a peacemaker between party lines, saying she is aware running as a Democrat in the 26th District is a “liability” and stating that she would seek compromise as a state senator. One piece of evidence she presented: her husband is a Republican.
Gallagher, a physician, praised Utah’s health care system, specifically mentioning Intermountain Healthcare and the University of Utah, but said she’d work to find ways to increase access in areas other than the Wasatch Front.
The third-party United Utah candidate and Parkite said she would remain on the ballot even as she takes a step back from campaigning to focus on starting an app development business and to maintain other aspects of her life.
“If you’ve ever started a small business, you know how it is all-consuming,” she said. The former math teacher had originally entered the fray out of a dissatisfaction with both parties and a desire to bridge the gap between the rural and urban parts of the state.
A town hall in Heber on Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. is scheduled to be the next opportunity for Park City residents to hear from the candidates. The 2018 midterm elections take place on Nov. 6. The deadline to register to vote in person or online is on Oct. 30. Register to vote at voters.utah.gov.
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