OGDEN -- A pair of Republican incumbents thrown into the same House race by redistricting both say gaining control of federal lands and using the money for education is at the top of their priority list.
Brad Galvez, of West Haven, faces off against Lee Perry, of Perry, for the House of Representatives District 29 seat, which was formed after a merger of District 2 and District 6.
The two candidates say that, right now, Utah has a one-of-a-kind opportunity to increase funding for education.
In late March, Gov. Gary Herbert signed legislation demanding that Congress turn over roughly 30 million acres of federal land within Utah's borders to the state.
Both Galvez and Perry say that such a move would bolster the state's education funding.
"I fully support Utah gaining control of our federal lands," said Galvez, a 51-year-old commercial real estate developer.
"We need about a billion dollars to compete with the top states when it comes to funding for education, which is obviously a huge gap. If we had control of the federal lands, we'd have sufficient revenue for education."
Perry, a 45-year-old Utah Highway Patrol lieutenant, also said he strongly supports the state acquiring the federal lands for many reasons, and first among those is education funding.
"That money would obviously be very useful for us," he said. "But first we need to make sure our students are getting taken care of and getting the best education possible. They will be the future leaders of this state and our economy."
Both candidates said if Utah does gain control of the land, an education fund should be created to take an automatic percentage of any revenue generated from the lands.
Perry said his 24 years working as a law enforcement officer give him the advantage over his opponent.
"Because I've worked in state government for so long, I know how it works," he said. "In my own job, I've been able to identify some issues and deficiencies and clear those up. There are also a lot of bills passed up on the Hill that impact law enforcement, and I will be able to look at them and paint a clear picture of exactly how they will affect this state."
Galvez counters that his background in real estate gives him a clear advantage, especially when it comes to the economy.
"My background is in commercial real estate development and that, in and of itself, has a big component of economic development," he said. "My experience in that sector, I think, is important, because we, as legislators, impact business around the state."
Because the district crosses county lines, the candidate will be selected by delegates at the state Republican Party Convention, scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at South Towne Exposition Center, 9575 S. State St., Sandy.
If neither candidate receives 60 percent of the delegate vote, they will face off in a primary.