First day of legislative session 11

Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, speaks with a representative during the first day of the legislative session at the Utah State Capitol on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Salt Lake City.

Utah Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, and United Utah Party candidate Emily Bergeson are both running for Spanish Fork Republican Sen. Deidre Henderson’s Utah Senate District 7 seat.

Henderson, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, withdrew her candidacy for reelection in March in order to run alongside Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox in the gubernatorial race.

“This was a difficult decision, but I’m confident in the leaders of our state and resiliency of our community,” Henderson wrote in March.

McKell, who was elected to serve over House District 66 in 2013, received 76.25% of delegate votes at the Utah County Republican Party convention in April, edging out challengers Scott Brandon Neilson — who received 21.67% — and Flor de Maria Sulbaran — who received 2.08%.

McKell currently serves on the House Business and Labor Committee, as well as the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee.

During this year’s general session, McKell sponsored a bill to create a “wine subscription program” administered by the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in which “a customer pays a recurring price at regular intervals for a products that involves the shipment and transportation of wine.”

“There’s been a fair amount of interest in the public, especially in my area with Silicon Slopes, we’ve got executives that come to the state of Utah (and) there’s certain wines that they’d like to receive,” McKell told lawmakers on Feb. 28.

Additionally, McKell introduced a bill to create treble damages for companies or persons that call a number in the “do-not-call” registry, noting that Utah has a cause of action against such calls but it is “rarely used.”

“If I were to ask a rhetorical question, ‘How many in this body have received a telemarketing call today?,’ most of your hands would go up,” McKell said on Feb. 11. “If I were to ask how many received one yesterday, most of your hands would go up. If I asked the question, ‘Was it more than three?,’ most of your hands would go up.”

Both bills passed unanimously through the House and Senate and were signed by Gov. Gary Herbert in March.

The United Utah Party candidate, Bergeson, of Provo, lists education, the environment, the Second Amendment, abortion and taxes as the “key issues” she would focus on if elected.

“Utah’s tax system is a mess,” Bergeson wrote on her campaign website. “Last year and this year, our legislature made a failed attempt to fix it. Looking at the proposed fixes, it feels that our legislature doesn’t really understand how to negotiate and come up with solutions that everyone can be happy with.”

McKell voted in favor of the tax reform effort that passed in December 2019 and was later repealed, according to House voting records.

Like many other United Utah Party candidates, Bergeson said she would support independent redistricting, campaign finance reform and term limits for office holders.

“I’ve never understood why elected officials want to make it their career to be in political leadership,” Bergeson wrote. “It should be a public service, not a career. I support term limits.”

During a discussion about school reopening in the fall, Bergeson said a “silver lining” of the COVID-19 pandemic may be that it has given parents and educators “a chance to test things out and see how our children do better or what kinds of things might help them thrive.”

“There are opportunities to help kind of even fill in the gaps as parents recognize where our children are thriving and where we might be able to supplement a little bit, too, based on whatever things our kids particularly might need,” Bergeson said on Aug. 6.

SD 7 covers portions of central and south Utah County, including parts of Provo, Vineyard, Spanish Fork, Payson, Woodland Hills and Elk Ridge.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at and 801-344-2599.

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