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Republican Gubernatorial Candidates Focus On Rural Utah In Monday Night Debate

V6 Media

Monday night the four Republican candidates in Utah's gubernatorial race debated some of the most pressing issues for rural Utahns. 

The candidates have varied experiences in politics, but they all pledged that rural Utah would be a priority if they were elected. Former governor Jon Huntsman joined via Zoom to say he’s been thinking about rural voters all along. 

“Every corner of the state matters, every voice matters,” Huntsman said. “Just the way it was when I had the great opportunity and privilege of serving as governor.”

The debate heavily centered on frustration over federal and state involvement in local politics and civil liberties. In relation to how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled, real estate businessman and former state GOP chair, Thomas Wright, felt the government went too far. 

“The proper role of government is to disseminate information to its citizens and allow citizens to make their own choices,” Wright said. “When you teach people the correct principles and you let them act according to their own dictates they will make the right decisions.”

“And the free market has checks and balances in this,” he added. “If a business is acting irresponsibly, they’ll go out of business.”

Former Utah House speaker Greg Hughes agreed and spoke to the economic hurt the whole state is feeling in the midst of the pandemic.

“We need to ask ourselves if it is the role of the government to decide what businesses are essential, what businesses are not. If it supports a family, go ask the family if it’s essential.”

Compared to larger, urban counties, voters in rural areas may have less influence in the state legislature. It’s a divide likely to widen after the 2020 census as the population in non-rural areas grows.

Current Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, a native of central Utah, said he knows that divide personally. He promised that his chief of staff would be a rural Utahn, and he would commit to geographic diversity in his administration. 

“Far too often in my service I found that I am the only person from rural Utah in the room when there are big and important decisions being made,” Cox said. “It’s not that they don’t care about us, it’s just that they forget about us.” 

The republican gubernatorial primary will be on June 30