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Senate Seat 10 - Vetting the Candidates

I've spent the last three weeks listening to and reading about the 9 Republican candidates for Senate Seat 10. I am going to list them in the order that I currently prefer them, last to first:

#9 Susan Pulsipher - Depth without breadth. Susan has been serving as the President of Jordan School District for the last five years and during that time has done a lot of good. When the subject is education, she brings a great deal of hindsight and understands the pain points of educators and parents alike. You know what that means for me? That she should keep doing that at least until her term is over. Keep up the good work, Susan!

I won't be voting for her for Senate Seat 10 because she does not have any coverage in really any of the other issues. Her most common statement to me when I asked her questions was "I'd have to research that issue more before making a comment."

#8 Hon. Rich Cunningham - More of the same. Rich has several endorsements from heavy hitters in the party. There are obviously several of our elected officials who would like to see Rich win this race. He has been serving in House district 50 for the last three years and has been a prototypical public servant to this point. When I spoke with him on the phone, he demonstrated to me his conservative voting record and his consistent communication channel with the members of his district.

Initially, his endorsements and his firm support of Aaron Osmond had decided things for me in favor of Rich. After the debate, though, he began to rub me the wrong way. I didn't like his staunch keep-your-hands-off-my-guns statement in response to a question about whether we should lift the shall-issue policy with respect to concealed carry permits. He doesn't seem to be for the free market when it comes to car dealerships and whether or not to break up that model in favor of allowing business to sell directly to consumers without government intervention. He has not convinced me that he sees his role as one of making the government smaller.

I did a bit of further research on Rich and found the following scorecard where various conservative think tanks rate members of Utah congress:

http://utleg.blogspot.com/2015/05/utah-house-scorecard-compiled-2015.html - Here, you will find Rich ranked in the bottom third with regard to conservatism.

http://www.utahtaxpayers.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2015-Scorecard-Website.pdf - Here, you will find Rich ranked in the top third

http://sutherlandinstitute.org/uploaded_files/2015-Utah-legislative-scorecard3-30-153.pdf - Here, you will find him ranked near average

I think what this means is that Rich is a pretty average Republican and if you are generally happy with the existing thrust of the Republican party in Utah, then he would be a pretty good fit.

Personally, I'll not be voting for him.

#7 Mark Woolley - Looks a lot like Mitt Romney. I mean literally! If you took off the glasses; his face shape is the same, his hair color and style are the same. He has a background in Construction Forensics which sounds like a really cool field. Researching broken processes, etc. to see what went wrong sounds fascinating, which I suppose comes from my background as a software engineer and all the debugging I get to do.

Mark is a principled individual that doesn't seem to have the political depth that the other candidates do. I believe in his principles, but I didn't see him differentiate himself enough from the other candidates to keep me from picking between him and someone with more political experience.

#6 Jayson Teuscher - Young and upcoming. Jayson is (I believe) the youngest of the nine candidates. He has two children and one on the way, currently works as a lawyer for the LDS Church in their Riverton building. He is eloquent and passionate; he has a penchant for making sure the government is as small and as local as possible. In the debate, I agreed with nearly every statement he made. He has a much better grasp of technology than any other candidate and will use in more effectively during his term than the other candidates.

Which makes my ranking here so difficult and possibly the one that has given me the greatest pause. When  I talked with him at the Meet and Greet on December 9th, I asked him what the focus of his campaign was. He mentioned two things. The first was getting the federal government money out of the state budget. He stated that $3.5 billion of the state budget comes from government incentives, which he believes to be too much. I asked him what we should do and he said we should stand by conservative principles, not let the federal government enroach, and send the money back. I asked him what we would do in the mean time after our revenues had dropped 25%. He said that he thought the government would give the money to the state anyway or that we might have to tighten our belts for a few years while we adjusted.

This seemed completely unrealistic to me. It was this raccoon-clutch onto local government ideology that makes me think that Jayson is an excellent tactician, but a poor strategist. More time to grow and see a larger playing field is going to make him a much greater asset for our state down the road, but not today.

The second thing he mentioned was religious freedom. That caught be a bit off guard. If he were running for the US Senate, then I wouldn't have been surprised, but here in Utah? I asked him if he felt like the cause of religious freedom was under-represented in Utah or if not what was his motivation for running under the banner of religious freedom. While I agree with him that we need to preserve religious freedom, in this context, where it doesn't seem to be an issue that is really in trouble without some additional voices, his words came off to me at best as biased and at worst as pandering.

#5 Lincoln Fillmore - Education and Mr. Nice Guy. Lincoln is a really nice guy. He is principled and passionate. I believe in a room full of sycophants, Lincoln would be absolutely adored. He has a heavy background in education like Susan does, and he seems to really enjoy it there.

He has some interesting and unique ideas about what we could do give more control to the parents by creating parent-driven advisory boards at the neighborhood level.

This idea comes off to me as a bit naive. In the under-performing communities, struggling students come typically from under-educated parents. Parents of the struggling and under-educated are often at work *all the time* largely due to their own lack of education. They have two to three low-paying jobs to make ends meet, and they don't have the time to go volunteer on a board so that their "voice can be heard", etc. etc. I think that creating a board like this would likely make those families who already value education feel like their voice is heard more, but honestly their kids are already well taken care of by the current system and by their parents whether or not we introduce a platform for them to speak out.

I had a high school teacher who once complained that they only parents that come to Parent-Teacher Conferences are those whose kids are doing fine. The ones who are struggling, the ones whose parents he really wanted to visit with would never come.

There needs to be a better solution than "those who show up" or rolling out the ideal that these parents just need to value their kids' education more. We need ways that education, mentors, experts, tutors, information can be more widely available. Technology can give us that; I don't know that policy can.

Lincoln is also passionate about a few other things, but he just doesn't come off to me as an individual that is going to be heard in the legislative body.

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The individuals that follow I could honestly go either way with
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#4 Jay Cobb - John Stockton. Jay comes of as a hard-working, collborative purist. He's the lack guy on the court to give up the short shorts and he's the guy that folks look to for purely fundamental approach to the game. He ran for the nomination Congressional Seat 4 in 2012 against Mia Love, Carl Wimmer, and Stephen Sandstrom and clearly has a desire to bring his voice to the senate floor. Jay is a powerful speaker that draws your attention.

Jay is one who I am sorry to say I haven't been able to talk to personally, yet. We've missed each other at the Meet and Greets, I haven't seen emails from him, etc., etc. I did get to hear his position alongside the other candidates, though, at the debate. I also watched an interview with him on Youtube back from when he was running for the Republican nomination for Congressional Seat 4 back in 2012. What I noticed over and over was that Jay is not flashy (plus) and he doesn't really differentiate himself from the pack (minus) other than the way that John Stockton did by just going to work every day and getting the job done.

The only reason he's down at number 4 is because of the ways that the top three distinguished themselves to me over the last few days.

#3 Ed Loomis - Acerbic, sarcastic, but right. I've often said to my work associates that you can often get away with being a jerk if you're right. While Ed stops short of that specific label, I was reminded of the phrase when I listened to him in the debates.

He has a pretty negative view of the current legislative body. He started his campaign stating that the current promise of the Utah state government to its people is that we be members of the Jelly of the Month club. I take this to mean that he feels like what we are getting out of the government currently to be basically worthless.

Now, he is largely speaking in hyperbole except for on the topic of healthcare. Ed believes government healthcare to be an absolute mess and a total failure. He stated at the debate that "Avenue H is a laughing stock of the healthcare industry" and that $.70 of our government dollars goes to fund healthcare. I didn't verify those claims, but it is clear what would be first on his list to tackle.

What I liked most about Ed is that he was consistently able to summarize his thoughts about nearly every question in just a few words. That said, there were some places where I think folks expect him to have an opinion where he simply doesn't care. For example, he was asked what he thought of the UEA, an organization whose value several have drawn into question over the years, including my mother-in-law. He said: "I believe the US Constitution affords freedom of assembly, right? So if they want to assemble and unionize, then so be it."

He has very specific agenda items on several questions that were asked of him; however they can all be easily summed up with a few words "Ed believes in the free market." In fact, he might be so "free market" as to be a bit of an idealogue.

#2 Lynn Alvord - Sage, irritatingly accurate wisdom. Lynn has a background as an inner ear researcher. He puts a great deal of focus on a recent study of marijuana and its effects on the individual and on the public good in Colorado since its policy changes regarding its prohibition. There, he says he discovered the lack of scientific rigor that is being undertaken when it comes to important issues like this at the legislative level.

What I particularly liked about Lynn was the care he consistently took with me and at the debate to show both sides of the issue. He didn't get lots of overwhelming rounds of applause at the debates, largely because he never threw any red meat out to the crowd. Instead, he patiently and thoughtfully demonstrated that the issues aren't as completely black and white as we sometimes like to make them.

For example, one question was "Where do you fall on the sides of the public good vs. individual rights?" Almost without thinking, Ed Loomis said "individual rights". When it was Lynn's turn, he talked about his marijuana research and how it taught him that there is a balance. Smoking marijuana while driving (as an individual right) has shown to increase automobile accidents in Colorado (a negative impact to public good). I was very pleased with this response because individuals rights are not the sacred ark that we sometimes make them out to be. They are certainly an ideal to pursue, but so is the public good.

I also appreciated his position on immigration. I believe that there needs to be more forgiveness, more acceptance, and I believe there are major charitable and religious organizations who would agree with Lynn.

I find it interesting that he has an endorsement from Jake Garn, though I didn't get a chance to contact Mr. Garn to ask him why.

He is the strongest advocate of fiscal conservatism in the bunch and he has gone on record stating that he feels taxes could be lowered from their current levels due to existing surpluses. AFAIK, he is the only candidate who has done that thus far.

#1 Aleta Taylor - I'm really low on time now, so I'll be super-brief. Aleta has a long history of public service in various capacities, several of them having no glamour or fame or prestige attached to them. She served in each one with a hard-working I-serve-the-people attitude. She worked on the Mosquito Abatement committee (who does that?) and talks about the committee's accomplishments with pride (who does that??). Who likes talking about mosquito abatement?

She stated in the debate something that I've felt for many years, which is that true home ownership should be possible. We specifically moved into an area where there was no HOA because I didn't want to be beholden to one even after my house was paid off. The idea of getting to a point where the government wouldn't come after me for property taxes either was refreshing.

On the downside, she does a lot of name dropping, etc. I was turned off when she went out of her way to mention that she'd named her first son Reagan after President Reagan.

Recently, her emails have come out with detailed citizen committee plans that I really liked.

My wife was a county delegate before I was, and when I mentioned to her that I was really impressed with Aleta, she said "Oh, that's who I voted for last time!"

More to come if I find a second...

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