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Utah’s 3rd Congressional District candidates answer questions on Trump, the budget and more

By Staff | Jun 10, 2024

Courtesy photos

Candidates for the 3rd Congressional District primary race, clockwise from left: JR Bird, John Dougall, Mike Kennedy, Case Lawrence and Stewart Peay.

In the Republican primary this month, five GOP candidates are vying to fill Utah’s 3rd Congressional District seat currently held by U.S. Rep. John Curtis, who is running for U.S. Senate this year.

With ballots now mailed to voters, the Daily Herald sent out a series of questions for the candidates to answer on various issues.

The following responses are in the candidates’ own words:

If elected, what would be your top priorities?

JR Bird: “My top priority when elected will be to get inflation under control. One way I will pursue this is to propose a long-term energy policy that will bring stability to our energy producers, reverse the freeze on liquid natural gas permitting and exploration, and reopen responsible energy exploration and extraction on federal lands. Energy costs influence the price of everything else, from groceries to home prices.

“We’ve seen what energy independence looks like a few short years ago and how it can quickly be reversed by a single administration. Codifying a long-term energy policy is the only way to stop the energy policy pendulum swing from administration to administration, will strengthen our natural security so we don’t rely on unfriendly nations for energy, and is one of the best ways to help bring inflation down quickly.

“Other priorities I will pursue are securing our borders, fixing our immigration system, balancing our federal budget, investing in our national defense as the world continues to get more dangerous, and fighting federal overreach into Utahns’ lives.”

John “Frugal” Dougall: “Washington has degraded from constructive debate to theatrical antics. Show over substance. Performance over principles. The mainstream conservative movement, once led by (Ronald) Reagan, is yielding to persistent, vicious attacks from extreme MAGA populism.

“I’ll roll up my sleeves to collaborate on fixing the critical challenges facing our nation that require immediate action: border security, immigration, fiscal responsibility, economic and military strength, and retirement and entitlement reform.

“The Republican Party used to be the party of big ideas. Sadly, not today. Yet, now, more than ever, we need big ideas. Big ideas have the power to unite us with a shared sense of purpose. The GOP needs to be the party of innovation and solutions, rewarding entrepreneurship over cronyism. We must be willing to make the hard decisions to ensure our nation is on solid ground for generations to come.

“My top priority is bringing fiscal sanity to the federal government. Reckless spending is driving inflation, making it harder for Utahns to buy a home, put food on the table, or run a business. Ballooning debt (almost $35 trillion) is a significant national security threat. This year, Congress will spend more paying interest on its debt than on national defense. Soon, interest costs will eclipse Social Security and Medicare spending. It’s unsustainable. And it is crippling our economy and threatens the security of Americans dependent on retirement programs, like Social Security and Medicare, while simultaneously threatening higher taxes on young workers who justifiably assume they will never benefit from those programs.”

Mike Kennedy: “Restoring common sense and fixing the dysfunction in Washington is crucial. Instead of focusing on solutions to make life more affordable for our families and secure our border, they’re too busy pointing fingers and engaging in partisan bickering. We have families struggling to make ends meet and a border that’s wide open. That’s why I’m running–to bring real solutions and leadership to these pressing issues.

“First, we need to finish the border wall and reinstate President Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy so we know who’s coming into our country before we let them in. We need to equip our border security with the tools they need to keep us safe. The Biden administration has completely dropped the ball on this, and it’s time for decisive action. Ensuring our border is secure is not just a matter of policy but of national security.

“Second, we have to tackle the national debt and rampant inflation caused by reckless Washington spending. Our economy is suffering, and our families are paying the price. Generations of irresponsibility, worsened by COVID-era policies, have crippled our financial stability. We need to rein in government spending, balance the budget, and promote policies that foster economic growth and stability.

“Finally, we need a Congressman who knows how to build coalitions and get things done. As a proven conservative state legislator, I’ve helped cut taxes by over a billion dollars and sponsored and passed crucial legislation to ban dangerous and irreversible transgender surgeries on children. My record is clear and proves I am the most prepared in this race to tackle big issues and get results.”

Case Lawerence: “My top priorities will be 1) Addressing the Chaos at our Southern Border; 2) Eliminate Reckless Spending; and 3) Economic Growth. I am an entrepreneur who has spent my career building and creating in the private sector. I started and built a company called CircusTrix (now SkyZone) right here in Provo that has over 5,000 employees worldwide and over 320 locations. I understand the economy and I know how to create jobs. I will take this experience with me to Washington, D.C. to be a leader on economic growth in the House of Representatives.”

Stewart Peay: Did not respond.

Much of the 3rd Congressional District includes federal lands. How would you address public lands? 

Bird: “With Utah being a public lands state, I will fight for Utahns to keep access to federal lands for energy exploration and extraction, recreation, and other economic development activities.

“I grew up in a rural Utah community that is reliant on public lands for our livelihoods. I’ve seen firsthand how detrimental poorly thought-through public land policy from out-of-state bureaucrats affects communities. Those closest to the land are the most invested and the best stewards of that land.

“Specifically, I will fight against the recently proposed BLM rule that would make conservation (or non-use) a legal land use. This would allow the BLM to tie up millions of acres and keep tax-paying citizens off federal lands. Congressman John Curtis’ recently passed bipartisan The West Act addresses this BLM rule. I support this legislative fix.”

Dougall: “Whoever controls the land controls the economy. In rural Utah, federal control of public land often controls and disrupts local economies, impacting ranching, recreation, mining, and energy production jobs. That control can whipsaw with each changing administration. This instability challenges communities and schools that rely on local government support, while public lands escape paying taxes but demand local government support.

“The Biden Administration is restricting multiple uses of public lands, affecting oil and gas extraction, rare earth element mining, uranium development, ranching, and recreation. I will fight to unleash our public lands to bolster America’s economy and national security. Promoting energy dominance and reducing dependence on China for critical rare earth elements is vital for global security and economic stability.

“As a scout, I learned to leave my campsite better than I found it. We can be wise stewards of our land and water without crippling our economy. Extracting resources domestically, where environmental standards are higher, is preferable to offshoring to places like Russia or China.

“I once saw a Prius with a ‘Stop mining!’ bumper sticker, illustrating a disconnect between enjoying modern conveniences and understanding the necessary tradeoffs. Our energy consumption reflects our economic vitality, and Americans demand affordable, reliable power. As we push to electrify our economy, we must avoid California’s mistakes of reducing reliable power sources while increasing demand.”

Kennedy: “Utah lands should be in Utah hands. With over 65% of Utah’s lands under federal control, I will advocate for reforms to the Antiquities Act that empower our local communities, farmers, and ranchers with greater decision-making authority. I support transferring appropriate federally controlled lands to local management, ensuring those closest to the land oversee its sustainable use and preservation. Additionally, I am committed to preventing foreign nations like China from owning U.S. farmland, essential manufacturing facilities, or any land near our military bases, safeguarding our national security and local interests.

“I am dedicated to working alongside Utah’s delegation to pass the Helping Open Underutilized Space to Ensure Shelter Act (HOUSES Act), a strategic free-market approach to the national housing shortage. This critical legislation will utilize select federal lands–excluding national parks and protected areas–to increase the availability of affordable housing for young families and seniors on fixed incomes. By championing the HOUSES Act, I am committed to empowering state and local governments, ensuring fiscal responsibility, and promoting local solutions to make life more affordable in Utah. This collaboration is a cornerstone of my vision for a prosperous Utah, where federal resources are leveraged in a way that meets the community’s needs, ensuring housing is more accessible and affordable through wise and conservative governance.

“Recognizing the importance of local control over Utah’s public lands, I will push for reforms to the Antiquities Act to guarantee that local communities, farmers, and ranchers have a significant role in managing these lands. Transferring appropriate federal lands to state and private management ensures those who live closest to these lands are best positioned to oversee their sustainable use and preservation. This approach not only safeguards our environment but also supports the livelihoods of those who depend on these vital resources, fostering a balanced and prosperous future for Utah.

“By addressing these critical issues with a focus on local empowerment and sustainable management, we can ensure that Utah’s public lands are protected and utilized in a way that benefits all Utahns now and in the future.”

Lawerence: “The people of Utah and those closest to our natural resources are the best equipped to be stewards of that land and those resources. Currently, over 65% of Utah’s land is controlled by the federal government. We need to stop the commandeering of additional Utah land through unilateral executive action (like the Antiquities Act); we also need to look for opportunities to move land back into the stewardship of the states. In the past, this has usually only been a ‘one-way’ street of land being taken over by the federal government.

“I strongly support the recent legislation introduced by our Utah Congressional Delegation to combat Biden’s Public Lands Rule that would allow conservation leases on public lands — potentially by organizations or people outside our state — that would preclude economic use and development of those lands.”

Peay: Did not respond.

Do you support Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for president? What are your views on the guilty verdict against him in New York last week?

Bird: “Yes. I support Donald Trump as the Republican nominee.

“The weaponization of our justice system against Donald Trump — a single politician — is deeply troubling to me and opens a pandora’s box that we have never seen in this country before. I believe our justice system is resilient and can be repaired through much-needed reforms to the DOJ, FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies.”

Dougall: “Congress is failing. Rather than being cheerleaders for one administration or another, Congress should oversee whoever is president.

“We all remember Jan. 6, 2021 — an extremely dark day in America’s history. Rioters violently attacked the U.S. Capitol and assaulted Capitol police officers, disrupting the vital constitutional process of electoral vote counting. Rather than promptly deploying military personnel to protect the Congress and restore the constitutional process, Trump watched and tweeted, condemning his Vice President, tweeting, ‘Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done’ while Capitol rioters chanted, ‘Hang Mike Pence!’ Trump called legislators to stall the constitutional count in a desperate attempt to cling to power.

“Sedition is inciting people to rebel against the government, intending to disrupt it. Trump swore an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Rather than performing his constitutional duty, Trump shirked it, actively undercutting the constitutional functioning of government to further his personal agenda. Trump was seditious. I publicly condemned him. I, too, had sworn an oath to defend the Constitution.

“Many candidates claim we should only care about winning. But I was taught that it is better to lose doing what’s right than win doing what’s wrong. Principles matter. I take pride in the fact that I am the ONLY candidate who has not pledged allegiance to Trump. I will provide adult leadership, supporting good policies and checking our leaders’ worst tendencies.

“I will focus on federal issues, not micromanaging state issues.”

Kennedy: “When one of his toughest critics, Senator Mitt Romney, calls the event ‘political malpractice,’ it’s safe to say it wasn’t handled properly. The case will continue to be appealed and likely overturned. I see these questions as a distraction from issues we can impact in Congress if we focus on them. The Biden Administration has been failing the American people. Families across the country are struggling to put food on their tables, gas in their cars, and we have a border that’s wide open. Instead of being asked how we fix these issues or restore trust in Washington, we are being asked about my opinion of a New York court case we can’t impact. I support President Trump in the upcoming election because the cost of another four years of the Biden administration is one that too many families can’t bear. Please go to MikeKennedyforUtah.com to learn more about me and where I stand on the issues.”

Lawerence: “I support Donald Trump as our Republican nominee for President. I could have enthusiastically supported (Ron) DeSantis or (Nikki) Haley also had they been our nominee. Look, I don’t endorse the personal behavior of Donald Trump and many of his antics, but what we can’t do is allow another four years of Joe Biden, or should I say a few more months of Joe Biden and 3.5 years of Kamala Harris. For the first time in history, we have two candidates for President who have a four-year administration that we can probe and judge. There is no question that our country was better off during the Trump presidency. As Republicans, we have got to be smarter team players and unite in order to win and move a conservative agenda forward for our country. I am a strong enough leader that will not be afraid to call out inappropriate behavior by Trump, but can also work with him constructively to get things done.

“As for the New York trial and recent conviction, I am concerned about the use of our justice system to pursue political agendas. Almost all objective legal observers have concluded that the New York hush money case would not have been brought against any individual other than Donald Trump. We cannot allow the weaponization of our institutions for political purposes. I will be a leader who seeks to encourage faith and trust in our institutions through accountability, fairness and de-politicization.”

Peay: Did not respond.

What are your budget priorities? Where do you think government spending could be cut and where are you willing to spend? 

Bird: “It is well documented that the federal budget (or lack of one) is a complete mess. Tax revenue is at all-time highs, but federal spending also is at all-time highs. We do not have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem. I believe that $34 trillion in federal debt is unsustainable and a major national security risk. If we just kept our spending at FY 23/24 levels we would cut our annual deficit spending in half — that is how bloated the federal spending is this year!

“There are many ways to cut spending I want to pursue, including cutting and consolidating redundant federal agencies. I am open to considering a variety of entitlement spending reforms so we can ensure that people are being taken care of but are moving toward productivity and self-reliance wherever possible. Ultimately I want to see these programs moved too and administered by the states.

“Two other ideas I think would help cut spending are, first, single-subject legislation that would make OMNIBUS and other large spending bills impossible. Second, I would like to propose legislation that until the U.S. House passes a budget for the year, no other matters may be brought to the House floor.”

Dougall: “The federal government is seven times larger than it needed to be. National defense must be its top priority, while states or individuals can manage most other functions.

“I support cutting programs not clearly delineated in the U.S. Constitution, including eliminating the Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, and Agriculture. Additionally, I’d reduce the size of the Departments of Commerce, EPA, Transportation, Energy, Interior, Justice, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security and I’d cut wasteful activities in the Department of Defense.

“Unfortunately, most federal spending is on autopilot, removed from the regular budget process. Congress defers fiscal crises to the next generation, avoiding ‘mandatory’ spending cuts while offering ‘free stuff’ funded by future taxpayers. Politicians use budget gimmicks to hide the true cost of their spending. Officials falsely claimed the recent ‘minibus’ bill resulted in cuts to the FBI and EPA budgets but those budgets grew through earmarks and slush funds. Congress games the Congressional Budget Office’s 10-year window to appear fiscally responsible while inflating costs in later years (outside the budget window).

“As your auditor, I’ve been your watchdog. I’ll continue fighting for transparency and accountability. Congress should eliminate regulations and tax policies that have eroded America’s industrial base. Reagan preached peace through strength. Congress must strengthen and align our military for emerging threats while avoiding political distractions and excessive international involvement.

“By focusing on these priorities, we can reduce unnecessary federal spending, increase accountability, strengthen national security, and restore individual liberty and state sovereignty.”

Kennedy: “My priorities are securing our border and keeping our families safe while providing relief to struggling families and small businesses that have been crushed over the last few years due to inflation and poor government policies.

“Tackling wasteful spending and addressing the national debt requires a comprehensive approach. Here are some specific actions I would support:

“1. Returning discretionary spending to pre-pandemic levels and freezing it there. This will help us make thoughtful decisions about where our money should go and ensure any future increases are kept below inflation.

“2. Single-subject legislation to eliminate the pork-filled omnibus bills and continuing resolutions that lead to unchecked spending. This approach makes the budgeting process more transparent and focused.

“3. Passing a Balanced Budget Amendment is crucial to ensure the government cannot spend more than it takes in. This principle will help secure the future of our economy.

“4. Cutting through the red tape and eliminating unnecessary bureaucratic waste. With years of proven experience balancing Utah’s budget and delivering tax cuts, I know that a disciplined fiscal approach leads to prosperity.

“5. The REINS Act, requiring major regulations to be approved by Congress before they take effect. This will ensure that big decisions affecting the economy and individual freedoms are made openly and democratically, bringing power back to the people’s representatives.

“Through common sense measures, we can reduce our national debt and create a more efficient, accountable government that serves the American people effectively. It’s time to cut through the nonsense and put American families first.”

Lawerence: “Over the last four years, we have seen huge aggregated spending bills, including the American Rescue Plan, the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Bill. These huge spending bills are additive to baseline budgets and have contributed significantly to our national debt. Although there are some legitimate investments in these bills — especially in the Infrastructure Bill — there is far too much spending on unproven green energy initiatives and social pet projects. We need to eliminate these giveaways. Nowhere is this more disheartening and morally wrong than the forgiveness of student loan debt for a certain class of American people. In addition, we cannot meaningfully reduce our debt without the courage to make necessary changes to our entitlement programs. I will be a leader who does not shy away from difficult decisions budget decisions.

“We live in a world on fire and there are threats to our security on multiple fronts across the globe. Meanwhile, our military infrastructure is woefully behind and unprepared. We need to look at making upgrade investments to keep America safe in the new state of play in the world.”

Peay: Did not respond.

Rep. John Curtis started the Conservative Climate Caucus while representing the 3rd Congressional District. If elected, would you support the caucus or go in a different direction regarding climate issues? 

Bird: “Yes, I would support the Conservative Climate Caucus, and I think it’s a platform to facilitate accurate and honest conversation about energy and the environment. Having 24 years of experience in the energy industry, I’m uniquely qualified to bring a different but valuable point of view on how energy has benefited humanity, the reality of the pros and cons of mineral extraction, and what we are doing as an industry to mitigate the negative impacts. The fact is, we do it cleaner, safer, and more reliably than anyone else in the world and will continue to do so. I think Republicans understand the balance between the economic benefits of cheap energy and keeping the environment clean better than anyone else.”

Dougall: “I support the Conservative Climate Caucus and its efforts to address climate issues from a conservative perspective. Environmental stewardship and economic growth are not mutually exclusive.

“Republicans cannot allow Democrats to control this issue. Democrats turned climate from science into religion, leaving the science on the table for Republicans to seize. The climate is changing and our activities have some impact. But the Democrats’ policies to create endless bureaucratic red tape, shut down energy development and exports, and stifle the deployment of modern nuclear reactors have actually resulted in worse environmental impacts. We must look past the talking points and intentions and analyze actual outcomes.

“I support a diverse, market-driven, all-of-the-above energy portfolio that includes traditional, reliable energy sources as well as net-zero energy sources, like nuclear, geothermal, hydroelectric, and renewable energy sources. Americans demand reliable, affordable energy as well as clean air and clean water. I oppose the government stifling competition and distorting the market. I would eliminate all tax subsidies, tax incentives, and government grants that funnel taxpayer money to politically connected industries and favored agendas. Our increasing energy consumption is a sign of our economic vitality. We will not conserve ourselves into prosperity. Emerging technologies are driving greater demand for energy. I support energy dominance, which reduces reliance on foreign energy sources and strengthens national security. When Biden blocked LNG exports, he drove European nations into dependence on Russia. When misguided West Coast states block LNG export terminals, they drive our Indo-Pacific partners toward reliance on China and Russia.”

Kennedy: “We all want clean air and clean water. I have met and spoken with Congressman Curtis and others about this caucus more than once. I fully support American energy independence and dominance. I also understand that we can either choose to be part of the conversation or be left out of it.

“We all value clean air and clean water and are committed to protecting the future for our children and grandchildren. We need energy that is both affordable and reliable. My approach promotes ramping up domestic energy production to achieve energy independence and ensure America’s energy dominance. We put a man on the moon, and I’m confident that we can balance environmental stewardship with economic growth.

“It’s important to recognize that major polluters like China and India continue to increase their emissions. When we limit our own energy production, we risk losing American jobs and affordable energy, benefiting countries less concerned with our environment and allowing them to capitalize on economic opportunities at our expense. I support American energy and jobs. I do not support shipping these jobs overseas where it does more harm to our environment and economy. Other nations should be buying energy from us, not from countries like China and Russia.

“By focusing on conservative and common-sense policies that boost our domestic energy sector while protecting our environment, we can lead the world in innovation and sustainability. I will always stand up for families and be a strong voice for our district in every conversation that affects our future.”

Lawerence: “I support John’s effort to ensure a conservative voice is at the table for climate policy. I don’t share John’s personal passion for this subject so I won’t be making it a priority of my service. I have had unique and considerable experience with the economy and creating jobs. I will seek committee assignments and caucus memberships that put me in the best position to make an impact on economic growth.”

Peay: Did not respond.


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