3rd Congressional District hopefuls meet voters at Star Hall
Public land use, healthcare, education are main topics of candidate presentations in Moab
by Greg Knight
The Times-Independent
Aug 31, 2017 | 3482 views | 0 0 comments | 116 116 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The eight candidates vying for former Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s seat in the 3rd Congressional District came to Moab last Friday night at Star Hall for a chance to make their case to the voters of Grand County. From left: Dr. Kathie Allen, Jason Christensen, Jim Bennett, Sean Whalen, John Curtis, Dr. Joe Buchman, Russell Roesler and Brendan Phillips. 			                     Photo by Greg Knight
The eight candidates vying for former Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s seat in the 3rd Congressional District came to Moab last Friday night at Star Hall for a chance to make their case to the voters of Grand County. From left: Dr. Kathie Allen, Jason Christensen, Jim Bennett, Sean Whalen, John Curtis, Dr. Joe Buchman, Russell Roesler and Brendan Phillips. Photo by Greg Knight
A gathering of Grand County citizens heard Friday night from the candidates vying for Utah’s 3rd congressional district seat — a race getting national attention after the resignation of Jason Chaffetz on June 30 — during a candidate assembly at Star Hall on Aug. 25.

The assembly featured presentations by District 3 party nominees Republican John Curtis, Democrat Dr. Kathie Allen, Jim Bennett of United Utah, Libertarian Dr. Joe Buchman and Jason Christensen of the Independent American Party. Three other candidates, Brendan Phillips (Green Party, write-in), Russell Roesler (write-in) and unaffiliated candidate Sean Whalen rounded out the group of eight.

Each of the candidates opened the evening with a short, personal introduction to the voters, followed by responses to previously submitted questions dealing with five major topics important to Grand County voters — collaboration with other members of Congress, healthcare, public lands, energy policy and education.

The forum was organized by Moab residents Bill Topper and Ilona Carlson to provide an “opportunity for Moab to rise above the hostility, lack of civility and poor behavior seen elsewhere” in politics.

Election Day is set for Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Brendan Phillips,

Green Party write-in...

Despite the fact the Green Party is not eligible to be on the ballot in Utah, Phillips, the interim co-chair of the party, was nominated to run in the special election.

Phillips comes from a long line of social activists and is the grandson of world-renowned labor organizer and musician Utah Phillips.

“I believe strongly in diversity of thought and diversity of perspective; I’m very open-minded,” Phillips said. “... I’m not beholden to the ways of the Republican or Democrat parties. I don’t accept any corporate money ... so I’m not beholden to corporate interests, just the interest of the voters.”

Right out of the gate, Phillips made his case for single-payer health care as a right for all Americans.

“I’m a proponent of single-payer healthcare ... [healthcare] should be a right, not a privilege and everyone in this country should have access to adequate care, which should include mental health coverage, dental coverage ... preventative care, care for pre-existing conditions, substance abuse treatment, hospice and long-term care.”

On the question of public land use, Phillips was unfettered in his support of Bear’s Ears National Monument in San Juan County. Bear’s Ears has been reported widely in the national media over recent weeks after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke pledged to shrink the borders of the monument, a move seen as beneficial to ranchers, farmers and the energy industry.

“I support the designation of Bear’s Ears National Monument,” Phillips said. “I hope it stands as a show of respect for tribal sovereignty.”

Russell Roesler, write-in...

Not one to let a missed filing deadline stop him, airport customer service attendant Russell Roesler of Sandy is running for Chaffetz’s seat as a write-in candidate.

“[At work] I’m always talking and visiting with people, learning about them and understanding them ... working with the different members of Congress, you’re going to have give-and-take,” Roesler said. “ ... We need to work together and keep it simple.”

Regarding healthcare, Roesler advocates for privatization by the states, rather than a single-payer mandate from Washington, D.C.

“We need to privatize healthcare and let each state decide what they want to do,” Roesler said. “What [the government] did in Oregon, compared to what they did in Florida, compared to what we need here in Utah ... everybody has different needs and different wants.”

Roesler said he believes the United States is moving away from fossil fuels and is headed toward a greener, more natural environmental policy.

“We’re going into the solar world, we’re going into the recyclable world,” Roesler said. “ ... We need to develop clean products ... we’ll always need oil, it will always be that way ... Now we’re seeing the development of electric cars, and that development is going to continue ... We’re going to see the [reduction] of coal and clean, natural energy come up to the surface.”

Dr. Joe Buchman,


As a Libertarian, Dr. Joe Buchman has a storied history within the party and is their past national platform committee chair, while also serving as the Chair of the Libertarian Party of Utah.

Prior to his retirement in 2014, Dr. Buchman was a tenured professor of marketing at Utah Valley State College and taught abroad in Mongolia and China.

Dr. Buchman began by explaining the core principles of Libertarianism to the audience.

“Libertarianism is a philosophy,” Buchman said. “It’s been around since the 1800s, at least ... you might Google President Reagan and you’ll find [Reagan] being interviewed by Mike Wallace, saying ‘Libertarianism is the heart of conservatism.’ It’s the essence, it’s the principled basis [of Libertarianism] ... there are only two core, fundamental principles of Libertarianism; the first is that no human being has the right to initiate force or violence against another ... [the] second core principle is that you either own [your own actions] or you’re a slave to someone else. In America today, you really don’t own yourself. It’s a principle of self-ownership.”

The concept of taxation as theft was a key issue brought up by Dr. Buchman, adding that American workers are feeling the heavy weight of ever increasing demands on their paychecks.

“[Taxation] is taking without consent,” Buchman said. “We’ve got to start moving toward a society where we do things based on education and persuasion, and not political force. [Today] in America, the average jobholder is taxed at about 50 percent. That’s income tax, sales tax, property tax, user’s fees, and the extra you pay on everything you buy because taxes have been incorporated into it throughout the process.”

John Curtis, Republican...

Before his two-term stint as the incumbent mayor of Provo City, John Curtis, was a successful businessman who served as the chief operations officer of Action Target, a firm that builds and designs shooting ranges and steel-clad targets.

During his time as mayor, Curtis has shepherded the economic revitalization of Provo, as well as overseeing the acquisition by Google of iProvo, an Internet service provider that offers free access throughout the city.

Curtis won the Republican nomination after a primary election victory over former Utah State Representative Chris Herrod and business consultant Tanner Ainge.

On the topic of both healthcare and public lands, Curtis was quite clear that distance makes a difference when it comes to voters in Grand County, as opposed to those up north in Utah County.

“Anything south of Springville, [the topic] is Bear’s Ears, and anything north of Springville, it is healthcare,” Curtis said exclusively to The Times-Independent. “I feel like healthcare is a big issue here in Moab, but a lot of people can’t get past the issue of the monument ... We’re caught in this divisive trap about state’s rights instead of trying to solve [federal land use] problems. In regards to Bear’s Ears and other land use questions, we have a bad process and it’s going to make people mad.”

The Utah Public Lands Initiative (PLI) was a bill that would have designated specified federal lands as wilderness and part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in Utah. Among other key components, it would have added lands to Arches National Park but the bill failed to gain traction except from sponsors Rep. Rob Bishop and Chaffetz — and ultimately did not come up for a vote in the 144th Congress.

Curtis’ feelings on the collaborative process necessary to run the district in Washington, D.C., boils down to his experience as a mayor.

“I’m very proud of my record as mayor of Provo,” Curtis said. “We’ve worked very hard over the last eight years to be collaborative.”

Sean Whalen, unaffiliated...

As a businessman and founder of Orem-based Property23, a real estate startup, Sean Whalen became a multi-millionaire before his 30th birthday. Now, he is running as an unaffiliated candidate for Chaffetz’s seat on a platform of First Amendment rights with a strongly conservative tilt.

Whalen began making his case to the voters of Grand County by addressing the first question of collaboration out to the candidates.

“This first question is interesting,” Whalen said. “ ... How would you go to [Washington] D.C. and play ball? How would you go to D.C. and play ball with 535 people that have done what to your taxes? That has done what to your children’s education? ... How would you get on the merry-go-round and just continue to spin in a circle and go and go and go? To be completely candid with you, friends, we have a fight on our hands ... The system is not working for us. We the people have the power, we’ve just not represented ourselves.”

Whalen went on to say that he holds a “very specific conservative viewpoint” that is running as an unaffiliated candidate to ensure “a conservative Republican voice” was presented in this election.

“Let’s talk about ... the Antiquities Act,” Whalen said. “It has to be reformed, plain and simple ... and I can answer and address every single one of these questions by simply saying the federal government needs to get out of our bedrooms, it needs to get out of our pockets, it needs to get away from our businesses, and allow us to be Americans ... the way this country was established.”

One of Whalen’s most forceful platform stances has to do with his perception of federal overreach into the educational system.

“The [Department of Education] must go,” Whalen said. “We must return the power of our education, for our children, to the states ... A suit 2,000 miles away is not going to be able to do the same thing that a teacher, an administrator or parent can do here, locally, with their child.”

Jim Bennett, United Utah...

Jim Bennett, the first-ever candidate in any race from the United Utah Party, almost wasn’t on the ballot as an official candidate at all. Bennett, who is the son of the late Sen. Bob Bennett, had to sue Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox to get on the ballot after the governor’s office claimed that Bennett and the party failed to meet registration deadlines.

On Aug. 2, U.S. District Judge David Nuffer decided in Bennett’s favor, allowing United Utah to enter the ballot as a viable third party in the election.

Speaking on healthcare, Bennett said his view is that both sides of the aisle in Congress need to work together to find a solution remedying the failure of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

“The Democrats tried to ram through healthcare without anybody on the other side contributing to that process,” Bennett said. “And Republicans have just tried to do the same thing. That’s not the way you fix Washington, D.C. [and] that’s not the way you fix the government. You have to be practical, not partisan.”

“The way you fix the [healthcare] problem is, and I go back to my father’s approach when he [sponsored] the Healthy Americans Act, which the Bennett-Wyden Act, with [Sen. Ron] Wyden being a Democrat senator from Oregon, they came together and created a bi-partisan healthcare bill. That’s the only way we’re going to solve the problem.”

The fix for Obamacare, Bennett added, should come in the form of medical savings accounts and options for catastrophic coverage.

“You don’t solve the healthcare problem unless you collaborate, you compromise and you work with everybody,” Bennett said.

Jason Christensen,

Independent American...

In addition to being a businessman in Provo, Christensen has previously run for mayor in Provo, for a seat on the Provo City Council and for the District 16 seat in the Utah State Senate as a member of the Independent American Party.

Christensen began with his impression of political history in America — before stating that the two-party system is quite the same as the parties of eras past.

“Let jump back to the Revolutionary War ... people don’t realize that there were two great political parties in this nation that [were] causing all kinds of tyranny, the Whigs, which were basically the ‘do-nothings,’ and the Tories, which were loyal to the Crown,” Christensen said. “Fast-forward, and I see no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats today.”

Citing Rep. Rand Paul, Christensen said the healthcare bills being pushed through the House of Representatives are too big and should be smaller and more accessible to citizens.

“Raise your hand if you like having a piece of legislation you can read in ten minutes,” Christensen said. “[Rep. Paul] proposed a six-page bill that repeals Obamacare. Obamacare is broke, it’s done ... we need to repeal it, start from scratch and realize that the government has been fouling up healthcare since the 1960s.”

Dr. Kathie Allen, Democrat...

As the Democrat Party’s nominee, Dr. Allen has made healthcare reform the primary focus of her campaign. On her website, she states “Health care is indeed a right and most developed societies acknowledge this right ... Substance abuse and addiction problems are draining our world of potential. We need effective programs to prevent and rehabilitate those who have been afflicted by this scourge.”

During the assembly, Dr. Allen expanded on her platform, saying she has a multi-faceted approach to healthcare legislation.

“I’m not just running to be your voice in Congress, I’m also running because I have 30 years of experience as a family doctor,” Allen said. “[It’s] experience we need as we debate how to fix our healthcare system. Here’s my treatment plan ... we stop trying to repeal and replace Obamacare and start building a solution that covers every American. In the meantime, we prevent the insurance markets from collapsing by guaranteeing the subsidies. We [also] offer up for public auction for coverage, like Medicare or Medicaid, to greatly expand coverage for kids and adults ... this would provide another option to ACA markets where only one or two are currently being offered.”

A reduction in the cost of pharmaceuticals, Allen said, would also go a long way toward shoring up Obamacare in its present form.

“If we bring generics to market faster, get rid of TV ads for drugs and allow price negotiations for Medicare, your prescription drug costs will go down.”

Dr. Allen also touched on the issue of public lands, saying she supports increasing federal payments to communities like Moab that are surrounded by federal lands.

“We need untouched wilderness areas ... but communities nearby don’t need to suffer from conservation,” Allen said. “I support substantially increasing the payments-in-lieu-of-taxes that communities like Moab receive to offset the lost property tax revenue from nearby public lands. In regard to Bear’s Ear National Monument, I’m impressed that so many native tribes put aside their own differences and came together in the spirit of unity to suggest the boundaries of the monument.”

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