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Democratic guv candidate Cooke: ‘Take back control of your state’

September 12th, 2012 Posted in Opinion

By D. Whitney Smith

LOGAN—State voters want economic growth, improved education—both K-12 and higher ed—and better air quality, but, first, says Utah gubernatorial candidate Peter Cooke, Utahns need to take back control of their state, which is what he said Monday he will do.

Utah gubernatorial candidate Peter Cooke, a retired general who received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Utah State University, speaks at a town hall forum organized by USU’s College Democrats and Institute for Government and Politics Monday. D. Whitney Smith photo

Democrat Cooke, a USU alumnus and retired two-star Army general, said he’s been busy on the campaign trail since February, knocking on doors and meeting voters. He spoke Monday in the Taggart Student Center at a town hall forum sponsored by the College Democrats and the USU Institute of Government and Politics.

“I hope that my candidacy allows others to believe that you can be a Democrat, you can be a Mormon—which is important—you can be in the military, which is part of my defense background, and you can be in small business,” Cooke said in an interview after the event.

It’s important for voters to know there are options in Utah outside of Republican ideology, said Briana Bowen, president of USU’s College Democrats.

“It shouldn’t be a one-party state,” Bowen said. “Having town hall events like this, I don’t remotely consider it a waste of time, because it is a chance for the community to get to know the candidates. In some cases the party dominance may be perpetuated, but in some cases it does give citizens a chance to say, ‘You know, maybe we’re ready for something different.’”

Bowen said many of Utah’s Democratic candidates running in this year’s election are moderate Democrats and share a lot in common with typical Utah voters.

Vince Rampton, son of former Utah Gov. Cal Rampton, also a Democrat, is Cooke’s running mate. Cooke said Vince Rampton likens a well-functioning democracy to a set of strings on a musical instrument. He said tension is needed from both sides in order to create a harmony. Cooke said this is why Utah needs more Democrats in office.

Not too long ago, Democrats made up a majority of Utah’s political leaders, Cooke said. Among his goals for this gubernatorial race is to inspire others to challenge the Republican status quo—“those that have an advantage” in Utah—he said.

“It’s a slow process,” he said, regarding the idea of converting Utah residents to vote Democrat. “I think there’s [been] great [Utah] governors. I think Jon Huntsman did a great job and brought a lot of spirit to our state.”

If elected, Cooke said he would use the governor’s office as a microphone to be honest, forthright and promote transparency—a change that would resemble a stark contrast from incumbent Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s Utah.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Cooke came back to his alma mater, Utah State University, Monday to urge Utah voters to take their state back. Utah has enough Republicans, he said; we need a few Democrats. D. Whitney Smith photo

To underscore the need for openness and accountability on Capitol Hill, Cooke cited the recent controversies involving the illegal allocation of funds by leaders of some state-run organizations. Both the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control—a constant subject of public outcry—and the Utah Department of Transportation have been under investigation in connection with these issues.

“I would hope that I would be so out-front in honesty and new ethics in government that people would really believe that we can work together and make a difference,” Cooke said. “I would work in each one of the departments. You would see a governor that’s participating. One thing you learn in the military [is that] you’ve got to lead by the front.”

Cooke related his service in the military as commander of 10,000 soldiers in a seven-state region to his political aspirations. “Part of that rubbed off on me, that hope, part of that dream that there could be a better country—a dream of what democracy should be like,” he said.

After the forum, Cooke was asked what his office as Utah governor would look like depending on who wins the presidential election in November.

“It wouldn’t be difficult to work with Mitt Romney,” he said. “If Obama wins, you have a Democratic governor.”

“So I think I have an advantage on both sides. We have a lot of Republicans, so I think it’d be good to have one Democrat.”

Spencer Jensen, an undeclared sophomore who attended the event, said he doesn’t claim ties to any specific political party.

“As far as partisanism goes, I don’t look at who’s Republican or who’s Democrat—that doesn’t matter to me,” Jensen said. “What matters is who’s going to help. I think whoever can improve our economy the most is the one I’m going to vote for.”

Ty Aller, a College Democrats executive board member, said the group has planned a debate for 7 p.m. on Sept. 19 in the Eccles Conference Center between District 4 Utah Legislature candidates, Republican Ed Redd and Democrat Doug Thompson.



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