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Guest opinion: Who are you for? Utahns need to decide before they vote

By Becky Edwards - Special to the Daily Herald | Jun 23, 2022

Courtesy photo

U.S. Senate hopeful Becky Edwards

I love Utah and its people. I consider myself a lifelong Utahn, but I’ve benefited from several opportunities to live outside the state as my husband completed his job training. One of those opportunities was a year spent in Alabama.

Although our time in Alabama was brief, it was deeply meaningful. One day, shortly after our move, my 11-year-old daughter, Annie, came home from school with a very important question: “Mom, who are we for?”

It took some time, but I eventually figured out what she meant. Who are we for, Alabama or Auburn? She wanted to know which football team our family supported.

In Alabama, who you’re “for” is a big part of your identity. So, after some consideration, the kids and I took a vote and decided we were “for” Auburn. Later, when John arrived home from work, we gave him the news. Our family was for Auburn.

“No we’re not; we’re for Alabama,” John said. But it was too late! As my 5-year-old son, Matthew, pointed out, “You weren’t here when we voted, so you don’t get a say.”

Of course, our love of BYU football superseded our devotion to either Alabama team, but I share this story often. It’s a perfect metaphor for how our democratic system works. It shows why it’s important for voters to decide who they’re for, show up and vote when decisions arise.

Twelve years ago, Utahns decided we were “for” Mike Lee. Now, he’s running for a third term, something he so vocally opposes for others. He has failed to decrease the size of government and was unable to address our federal debt in the ways he promised.

Two terms in office are plenty of time to create a legacy of legislative victories, but Lee’s accomplishments are alarmingly sparse. In 12 years, he’s only passed six of his sponsored bills, three of which were renaming buildings.

Most of all, I’m concerned with Lee’s inability to show up for Utah. His dedication to obstructionism and his role in perpetuating partisan gridlock has left us with a paralyzed, broken Congress. It’s time to reconsider who we’re for as we move toward the primary on June 28.

When faced with complex challenges, much of our current leadership does little more than vote along rigidly constructed party lines, ensuring that nothing gets done. It’s performative at its best and unproductive at its worst.

At this point, Americans know what every member of Congress, including Mike Lee, is against. But do we know what they are for?

True leadership, and honest representation, take work. It requires grit, resilience and an ability to have difficult conversations. The demand is high, but the results are worth it.

I served as a GOP representative in the Utah House for 10 years. I am proud of what my colleagues and I accomplished during that time. Our work required consistent collaboration, an open mind and a willingness to prioritize our work over personality differences or clashing egos. This work ethic informs how I tackle challenging issues.

Balancing a multibillion-dollar budget for 10 years wasn’t easy. Still, I knew my constituents cared about protecting Utah’s future prosperity, viability and access to opportunity, and that’s what I’m for.

Parents sending their children outside to play without worrying about their child’s health — that’s what I’m for.

Rural communities having access to better infrastructure resources without giving up their role as dedicated stewards of Utah’s wildlife and landscape — that’s what I’m for.

These are real issues, and they impact real Utahns. A mindset of grit and determination helped me successfully address those issues, but it could not have happened if I, or my colleagues, weren’t willing to work together toward actionable solutions.

My role as an elected official required me to find ways to maintain my values and get work done; that’s a big part of the job description. Elected officials who claim their values prevent them from actively participating in governance are not doing their jobs.

As a conservative, issues of family prosperity, economic opportunity and fiscal responsibility are deeply important to me, they are important to my constituents, and I do not believe in compromising those values under any circumstance. Voters deserve to see a clear connection between what a candidate says they are “for” and their accomplishments.

Family prosperity was, and is, important to me. That’s why, in 2018, I sponsored multiple bills that increased access to affordable child care through employer-employee partnerships and incentives and created tax credits for businesses that offered paid family and medical leave.

Economic growth and opportunity are vital to Utah’s future, so as chair of the Economic Development Committee, I prioritized programs that increased job and continuing education opportunities for new graduates. I developed proactive solutions for the affordable housing crisis, so our state could continue to attract new businesses and jobs for Utahns to continue living and working in the communities they love.

These solutions aligned with my values, improved the lives of Utahns and did not require massive overspending from the state or federal government. That may seem impossible for members of Congress to fathom, but my work is the result of proactive, productive and inclusive leadership. That’s what I’m for, and that’s what it will take to break the partisan gridlock.

There are immense challenges in our future. Families are hurting under the burden of inflation and reckless government spending. We are vulnerable to natural disasters at home and international instability abroad.

We can overcome these challenges together only if we know what we are for. This election is an opportunity to make sure our voices are heard when decisions are made, but that won’t happen if we vote for more of the same.

I am in this race because I know what Utah is for, and I promise to be there for the important decisions. I look forward to returning productive, proactive and inclusive leadership to Washington, and I promise to represent every Utahn, and our values, in the U.S. Senate.

Becky Edwards is a Republican U.S. Senate candidate.

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