Utah State Representative and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mike Kennedy visited Moab on Tuesday, May 15 as part of his statewide campaign swing. Kennedy made headlines last month when he wrested the Utah State GOP nomination to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch from former presidential nominee and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by two percentage points.
Kennedy, a medical doctor and member of the Utah Legislature since 2013 from the state’s 27th District, made his appeal to voters at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center, where he met with citizens and visited with a dance class that was being held at the facility. During a break in his visit, Kennedy told The Times-Independent he believes he is best suited for the role of a U.S. senator based on his experience and desire to serve a state he calls home.
“We love the people and want to serve the people of southeast Utah,” Kennedy said. “As a medical doctor for 20 years and as a state legislator for six, I really enjoy trying to help people. At my age I have had a chance to gather some skills and experience that I think would be useful for Utah in the U.S. Senate. It would be an honor to serve them in that capacity.”
One might think that Kennedy would be the underdog, given Romney’s status as a former nominee of the Republican Party for president in 2012. As Kennedy puts it, he believes there are some vast distinctions between Romney’s past party successes — and ultimate failure at the ballot box — that should not be overlooked.
“I think there are several points of distinction between myself and Governor Romney, the first being that I have lived here, worked here and raised my family here in Utah and I stay because I love this place,” Kennedy said. “Second, a seat in the U.S. Senate is a legislative position, and the reality is that legislation is what I am familiar with as a Utah Representative. Governor Romney served as an executive branch leader in a different state. As a state legislator I have worked with the people here in Utah and, in essence, I don’t have to read the ‘Cliff Notes’ version of this state because I have read the book ... and because of my experience in the legislative branch I know how to work with others in the way a U.S. Senator would in Washington, D.C.”
On the issue of public lands — especially in regard to the shrinking of Bears Ears National Monument by President Donald Trump — Kennedy said his values are in line with the chief executive and that he appreciates what Washington, D.C. has done for the Beehive State.
“I am so proud of President Trump for paying attention to a Utah-specific issue and helping us with an issue we believe is vital to the citizens of the state,” Kennedy said. “I appreciate what he has done in shrinking the Bears Ears monument, and I believe that the long-term vision is this; when you own the land, you own the wealth, the future and opportunities that come with that ownership. If you don’t own the land you don’t have those opportunities.
“I believe that the State of Utah should own, manage and regulate those lands. The political reality is that this will take time, but we can demonstrate that it can be done and I stand strongly with the people on this issue. These lands should be managed by those that know and love them the most, and that is people right here in Utah.”
Kennedy added that he believes the state is, “not as capable,” as a more local entity — such as Grand or San Juan counties — at managing the lands, and that those local government bodies should be given deference in determining the future land uses in the region.
“I’m in support of the counties having more control, since they are formed by the people closest to these lands,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy’s son, 14-year-old John Kennedy, is crossing the state with his candidate dad and told The Times-Independent he is using the time spent riding on the campaign trail as a classroom, of sorts.
“I can tell you it has been super educational ... and seeing the cool sights, and talking to the good people in this state, it has informed me about so many issues,” John said. “I’ve really gained a bigger view of Utah and the great people that live here. That’s the coolest part.”
The primary election in Utah is set for June 26. For more information on Kennedy’s campaign, visit kennedyforutah.com.