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Utah legislative hopefuls showcase positions at USU debate

September 21st, 2012 Posted in Opinion

Story & Photos by D. Whitney Smith

LOGAN—Limiting rights to carry concealed firearms in churches or on a university campus is one issue District 4 legislative candidates Doug Thompson and Ed Redd disagreed on during Wednesday night’s debate in the USU Conference Center.

District 4 Utah legislative candidates Doug Thompson (left) and Ed Redd engage each other and prospective voters at a debate at USU Wednesday. D. Whitney Smith photo

The candidates, both newcomers to statewide political office in their race for the District 4 Utah House of Representatives seat, said multiple times that they’ve known each other for years and are good friends. Most of the candidates’ responses had similar underlying themes, but a small rift emerged when gun control came up.

“I think the pendulum has swung as far as it can for the right to bear arms,” said Thompson, a Democrat and former 8-year mayor of Logan. “I feel very uncomfortable knowing that somebody might be sitting next to me in church with a gun. It just doesn’t . . . it just seems incongruous, going into a place to worship and talk about peace and love and having a weapon there.”

Thompson also said business and other private owners should also have the right to deny concealed-weapons permit holders from carrying firearms on private premises.

“We need to make sure that people have the right to keep arms and have those arms handy in their homes; without question, that should be sacrosanct,” Thompson said. “But I think we need to be careful about where they’re being allowed now.”

Redd, a Republican and physician, disagreed. He said when he worked at Cache County Jail treating patients, multiple inmates had threatened to kill him for denying them drugs they’d asked for.

“I think there are people in this community who really do have a reason to bear arms in a concealed way,” Redd said. “At the end of the day, people need to be able to protect themselves if they feel like they’re going to be attacked.”

As for carrying a gun in church or a private business, Redd agreed with Thompson, saying owners should have the right to restrict people from carrying weapons on their property.

On the subject of property—specifically federal lands—Thompson and Redd again had different approaches. Redd initially brought up the topic when answering a question about funding education. He said if the government would relinquish ownership of federal lands, Utah could possibly generate additional revenue to fund education.

Debate moderator Michael Lyons, associate professor of political science, asked Redd for his opinion on the legal validity of the Utah Legislature’s request that federal lands be handed over to the state.

USU politican science professor Michael Lyons moderates Wednesday’s debate between Utah District 4 House candidates Democrat Doug Thompson (left) and Republican Ed Redd. D. Whitney Smith photo.

“I think right now you have a federal government that’s far away from the lands that they control,” Redd said. “My experience working with federal government is that they want to do what’s right, but they are incapable of managing things, because they can’t see what’s on the frontlines, what’s in the trenches.”

He also said if the state succeeds in its mission, the Legislature would then have to develop the infrastructure and funding necessary for managing that land.

Therein lies the problem, according to Thompson, who said a comparison of how national parks are managed versus state parks would reveal a disparity.

“National parks are handled very, very well,” he said, “and the state parks often don’t have toilet paper in the restrooms. We really have to be careful if we’re going to bite off more than we can chew. Not only are we going to bite off more than we can chew, we’re going to spend a whole lot of money doing it.”

The other topics brought into question during the debate included the idea of a public-school voucher system, which both men oppose, and improving air quality and traffic conditions in northern Utah. Aside from their differences on gun control and public lands, both candidates admitted to having similar opinions on most issues.

“I felt like I got more of an insight into their personalities and not so much into their actual views on policy and platforms,” Mikey Guerts, a senior majoring in sociology, said about the debate. “They agreed on quite a lot of the topics. Mr. Thompson seemed much less formal and more realistic. Mr. Redd seemed the other way around. He seemed very intense and dedicated.”

USU College Democrats President Briana Bowen said Redd has been described as a liberal Republican and Thompson is a moderate Democrat.

“Not to be cynical about politics, but this is one of those rare elections where you genuinely have two really, really good men running against each other,” Bowen said. “I think one of the great parts of the debate this evening is that the community and the students that were in attendance really had a chance to see kind of an unmitigated, raw face of both of the candidates.”

The debate is one of several events organized by USU’s College Democrats meant to prepare and educate students prior to the November elections, Bowen said. Last week, the group hosted gubernatorial candidate Peter Cooke for a town hall forum in the TSC Auditorium.

“These two gentlemen have, insofar as I know, never run for the state Legislature before,” Lyons said. “My only experience moderating debates is mediating disputes between my teenage daughters. So I’m new to this, too.”


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