OGDEN — Democrat Heidi Bitton faces Republican Lee Perry in the new Utah House of Representatives District 29.
The 46-year-old Perry is technically the incumbent in the race, having served a two-year term in House District 2, representing the Perry area, before redistricting.
Bitton, 39, is a political newcomer. She graduated from Weber High School and is currently staying home to care for her five children.
Perry, a lieutenant with the Utah Highway Patrol, has a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Columbia College. He is married with four children, ages 10 to 19, and lives in Perry.
Both tout education as one of their top priorities.
Bitton, a Plain City resident, said she supports charter schools. They may be another option for students, she said, which will help them avoid dropping out.
Perry supports school community councils and believes that encouraging and promoting private enterprise and economic growth and development will also improve the state’s schools.
“The more people we have working,” Perry said, “the more we can improve education.”
At the top of Bitton’s priorities, however, is helping families deal with autism.
“It doesn’t seem like anyone else is going with a cause,” Bitton said.
Like her 11-year-old son, she said, 1 in 47 children in Utah suffer from autism.
She said the state Legislature had the opportunity to help out families with autism insurance.
“They had the opportunity to pass it in March, but they shelved it and they passed a smaller bill,” Bitton said. “It seems like they are shoving us aside for a later day and not doing anything about it.”
Perry said he will use his 24 years of experience with the Highway Patrol to work on bills that affect law enforcement.
He does not think the state has done enough to protect local police officers and firefighters if they are injured or killed on the job.
Perry hopes to extend a bill that he passed last year that protects state officers to also protect local public safety officials.
Asked his accomplishments during his two years in the Legislature, he talked about how he sought to save constituents money.
He said he helped reduce taxes for trailers that carry vintage vehicles. Vintage vehicles themselves have lower rates on the licenses.
“These people will preserve these items and they will be able to have them for history’s sake,” Perry said.
He also said that he stood up against spending practices that he felt did not benefit his constituents and other taxpayers.
Perry said he did not support providing $1 million in funding for a museum in Salt Lake City when the state was cutting funding for the juvenile justice center in Weber County.
He also questioned the state operating its own airplane.
“There are a lot of things in government that the government doesn’t need to be in,” Perry said. “Unless we are saving taxpayer dollars, then we don’t need to be in that business.”
While Perry supported scrutiny of public money, Bitton said she wants to make state government more open overall.
“We have a right to know what they are doing,” Bitton said.
She said she plans to keep communication open with the public in person and through technology such as Facebook and her website.
She also wants to limit closed-door meetings.
“I don’t think it’s responsible,” Bitton said. “I don’t think it’s ethical.”
The newly drawn and numbered House District 29 includes a portion of west Weber County and portions of Box Elder County. It is a district that merges the old 2nd and 6th house districts.